UN Leader Expresses Concern Over Growing Domestic Violence Amid COVID-19 Pandemic: 'We've Seen A Horrifying Global Surge'
Almost every country has seen massive increases in calls to domestic violence hotlines since quarantines were instituted.
April 07, 2020 at 1:59 pm
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the global increase in domestic violence incidents amid the stay-at-home orders to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We have seen a horrifying global surge in domestic violence," Guterres said in a statement on Sunday according to HuffPost.
“Violence is not confined to the battlefield," Guterres said in a video shared to Twitter. "For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest: in their own homes. I urge all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19.”
Since January, there have been dozens of reports from Chinese organizations that saw an immediate and stark increase in calls to police and domestic violence hotlines after parts of the country went under mandatory quarantine, reports The Washington Post.
Peace is not just the absence of war. Many women under lockdown for #COVID19 face violence where they should be safest: in their own homes.— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) April 6, 2020
Today I appeal for peace in homes around the world.
I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/PjDUTrMb9v
As each country has been hit with the coronavirus and has responded with quarantines or shelter-in-place orders, there have been deluges of calls to domestic violence aid groups just seven to 10 days later.
Groups in China, Italy and France reported exponentially higher numbers of domestic violence incidents once their countries had forced women to stay home with partners, and the loss of employment only exacerbated lingering disputes between couples, according to The New York Times. Most organizations designed to help women in need were forced to close their doors to protect employees, leaving many people with few options.
Most courts have closed as well, so those who are seeking protective orders or who are in the middle of divorce proceedings are forced to shelter around the clock with already abusive partners.
The situation is so dire that one newscaster in London wrote the telephone number for the UK's national domestic abuse helpline on her hand ahead of broadcast.
The interior minister for France, Christophe Castaner, went on TV and said he ordered police to be on the lookout for domestic violence cases.
The National Domestic Abuse hotline has seen a 25% increase in calls & online requests for help in past week— Victoria Derbyshire (@vicderbyshire) April 6, 2020
During the lockdown there’s also been a daily rise in people going on the helpline website & last wk that figure was up by 150%
The helpline is open 24/7 pic.twitter.com/onHBSfhERV
U.S. senators anticipated a similar rise in the states and wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services two weeks ago demanding that the Trump administration find ways to provide help to victims and their children throughout the pandemic.
Violences conjugales : les interventions des forces de l’ordre suite à des signalements ont augmenté de « 32% en zone de gendarmerie » et de « 36% à Paris » (par rapport à la même semaine de référence), annonce le ministre de l’Intérieur @CCastaner #VALP pic.twitter.com/BrNpBXTvve— Vous avez la parole (@VALP) March 26, 2020
"We write to express our concern for the wellbeing of families who face an increased risk of domestic violence during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. We also ask that the Administration for Children and Families and the Office on Violence Against Women ensure that organizations that help victims and survivors of domestic violence have the flexibility, resources and information needed to continue to provide these critical services during the pandemic," the letter read. "An unintended but foreseeable consequence of these drastic measures will be increased stress at home, which in turn creates greater risk for domestic violence."
Sadly, their fears came true. Since most states or cities enacted shelter-in-place orders, domestic violence groups have seen triple-digit increases in calls, but groups are struggling to help those in need. In New York state, there has been a 15% to 20% increase in domestic violence calls to the police in the past few weeks, according to Melissa De Rosa, top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Most shelters for domestic violence victims have closed or have reduced their capacity due to fears over the spread of the virus, and efforts by staff members to provide help over the phone have had mixed results.
“If anything, this pandemic has made our services much more critical. With the pandemic going on, with people being mostly indoors and at home, it limits the opportunities survivors have to leave or call for help. There is a heightened sense of vulnerability and danger,” Koube Ngaaje, executive director of District Alliance for Safe Housing, told The Post.
Many have noted that for some women, workplaces, schools and other places became refuges for those suffering from abuse at home. The quarantine has forced millions of women and children into harrowing situations, leading to unspeakable violence.
Websites like Reddit have been flooded with messages from women and children speaking about being quarantined with abusive partners or those they were in the process of separating from. Women have also been cut off from networks of family and friends who might help them or provide support in times of need.
U.S. Congress members added about $45 million for family violence shelters and $2 million for the National Domestic Violence Hotline to the recent trillion-dollar stimulus bill passed last week.
Additionally, social justice organization Collective Future Fund has established a Survivor Safety and Support Fund of $2 million geared toward Indigenous, trans, queer and/or cis women of color who are survivors of violence.
"Peace is not just the absence of war. Many women under lockdown for #COVID19 face violence where they should be safest: in their own homes. Today I appeal for peace in homes around the world. I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic," Guterres said. “Healthcare providers and police are overwhelmed and overstaffed, local support groups are paralyzed or short of funds, some domestic violence shelters are closed, and others are full.”The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24 hours a day in more than 200 languages. Call 1-800-799-SAFE or text LOVEIS to 22522.