The first thing that came to my mind when I heard about COVID restrictions and mitigation strategies was how exceptionally dangerous this period could be for women living with violent partners. “Isolating yourself”, “staying at home”, “practicing social isolation” and “recession” are all words that can terrify many women who live with intimate partner violence (IPV). The lives of these women are often filled with fear and danger under normal circumstances, but during this new normal of the global pandemic, the lives of these very often “invisible victims” are at increased risk of violence and even murder. .
Before the COVID pandemic, epidemiological estimates showed that almost one in three women suffered from IPV and about one in four women suffered from it. severe IPV. Other data shows that almost half of all female homicides are committed by a current or past male intimate partner. Although these numbers are already too high, historical data shows an increase in IPV rates during pandemics and periods of economic crisis. Other data show that domestic violence tends to increase when families spend more time together, for example during the holidays.
COVID restrictions caused an increase in IPV
Unfortunately, the realities of COVID-19 and its restrictions have indeed caused a perfect storm for women with IPV. First, numerous media reports have indicated huge spikes in calls to LPI hotlines, sometimes doubling and tripling the typical number of requests for help, after hold-down commands have been mandatory.
Second, reports have indicated a frightening increase in femicide due to IPV. The UK has reported higher rates of femicide than it has been in the past 11 years, double the average over a 21-day period. Mexico reported an 8% increase in femicides, with nearly 1,000 women murdered in the first three months of the year. These data clearly indicate an escalation of more serious forms of violence, possibly leading to an increase in the number of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) associated with IPV. Repetitive BITs are among the most underrated dangers of IPV, and have been associated with a range of negative cognitive, psychological and neural outcomes – which many believe can make it harder to get out of an abusive situation.
Third, the ability of women to escape situations of violence was reduced during this period. In many situations, COVID-19 warrants require that women remain locked up with their attacker. Friends whom women may have turned to before may no longer be able to help, due to social isolation regulations. Women can also rightly be afraid of leaving for fear of exposing themselves and their children to the virus, including going to a shelter – if beds are even available.
With violent partners at home more frequently due to lack of social opportunities and / or loss of job or homework, it may be impossible or more dangerous for women to find a safe space or time for ask for help. Reports have shown that closing the courts has made it more difficult, if not impossible, for women to obtain protection orders. As a result, some women may have been considering leaving, but are no longer able to execute this plan.
Weigh the risks and benefits of getting help
Women may want to leave because of escalating violence – including head trauma – but feel they have nowhere to turn. Faced with two unwanted choices, choosing to resist abuse and experience the effects of more serious violence may seem a better option than the potential danger of seeking medical help and / or support services and contracting COVID-19.
What can you do?
If you know someone who may be abused or who is very isolated, see them frequently, ask them how they are doing, and give them the opportunity to let you know things are not going well. If you are able to accommodate her, make sure she is aware that it is a possibility for her if necessary.
If you are a health care professional, consider mentioning that family violence has increased since COVID-19 and ask women if they feel safe at home.
If you experience violence at home, remember:
- You’re not alone; IPV affects one in three women!
- It is not your fault and you should not be ashamed to ask for help.
- If you are injured, do not delay seeking intensive care due to fears of contamination. Reports show that some emergency rooms are less busy than usual, and all medical personnel are fully trained and prepared to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- If you know you are at risk, contact the national hotline against domestic violence at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 for TTY, or if you do not speak safely, you can log on to thehotline.org or send LOVEIS to 22522. They are available 24/7 and can work with you to find help in your area.
- Have a security plan. Even obvious things may not seem obvious when you are in a terrifying situation. A security plan will help you. You can get help creating a plan here.
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