Coronavirus is stifling the cries of domestic violence victims

Pope Francis, Monday morning, during his daily Mass in Casa Santa Martha, prayed for families closed up in their homes because of the pandemic. He made it a point to mention the ugly reality of domestic violence that surged in many countries during the coronavirus pandemic. This dangerous trend was also noted by Antonio Guterres the U.N. Secretary-General who had warned of a “horrifying global surge” in domestic violence during the coronavirus crisis. He urged all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic.

More violence, fewer reports

Recently BBC Radio 5 Live drive has spoken to an official of a charity combatting domestic violence in the UK who said that it has seen a 400% increase in calls from women seeking help from their group. Also, the UK newspaper, the Guardian, has reported that “domestic abuse killings has more than double amid Covid-19 lockdown”.

The founder of a local charity in the UK Counting Dead Women that takes care of domestic violence, Karen Ingala Smith said that there were “16 killings between 23 March and 12 April”. She pleaded to the UK government for more funds in order for these NGOs to be sustained and help vulnerable women.

Other NGOs in the UK, on the other hand, noted a drop in phone calls reporting abuse since women find it more difficult to report abuse when their husbands are around. Rachel Williams “who was shot by her husband at the hair salon where she worked back in November 2012,” said that “vulnerable people will feel more isolated now more than ever.”

Sharp increase in numbers

A similar situation prevails in Turkey with an increase of “38.2 per cent” in cases of domestic violence. In the Hurriyet Daily News, it was reported that since people are staying at home “crimes are decreasing but domestic violence cases increasing.

Reuters reported that also Italy has seen a “sharp fall” in the number of official reports on domestic violence but not in the number of cases. Telefono Rosa, Italy’s largest domestic violence helpline, said calls fell 55% in the first two weeks of March compared to the same period last year. Alessandra Simone, director of the police criminal division in Milan said that: “There are a lot of problems in this situation, maybe not the least of them is the difficulty of asking for help when everyone is obliged to stay at home.”

In Spain, authorities launched a WhatsApp service to make it easier for victims to call as the Equality Ministry has seen a 270% increase in “online consultations” that means that people are reporting more via online since the lockdown started.

Report violence

The association of Maltese psychologists and psychiatrists in a statement recently appealed to victims of domestic violence to report abuse on helpline – 179.

Bishop Galea Curmi made a similar appeal during on interview with “quarantine, for these families, exacerbates problems. He encouraged all those who are victims of domestic violence to file reports and to seek help rather than suffer in silence and do nothing.”

Report compiled by Luke John Cassar