How the coronavirus has led to an uptick in violence against women and why victims continue to stay in abusive relationships.
Domestic violence refers to all acts of physical, sexual, psychological, or economic violence that occur in the family or household between former or current partners. Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used by one person to control or dominate another person with whom he or she has or has had an intimate or family relationship.
What is domestic violence?
Psychological violence can take many forms, it can be intrusive attention, stalking, or coercive control. With coercive control, the perpetrator’s behavior is aimed at subjugating and/or creating dependency in the victim/survivor through threats, humiliation, intimidation or other abuses that are used to harm, punish, intimidate and isolate the victim/survivor from any support.
Economic abusers seek to prevent a person from accessing employment opportunities and economic resources.
Domestic violence can result in long-term physical, mental and emotional health problems; in the most extreme cases, violence against women can lead to death. It is one of the most extreme forms of harassment a woman can face.
Why has domestic violence increased during Covid-19?
The social consequences of the coronavirus outbreak and the associated restrictions and impossibility of social interactions can increase the tensions inherent in forced cohabitation and increase the risk of domestic violence.
Domestic violence, often perpetrated by men, is deeply rooted in a model of patriarchal masculinity characterized by male power and control over women. As crisis and uncertainty develop at the personal and family level, abusers may want to regain control and express their resentment at the collapse of plans caused by a regime of isolation through increased outbursts of violence.
The economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, accompanied by rising unemployment and loss of income, is especially dangerous for abused women, since economic control is a key tool of abusers. Lack of financial security can force victims to stay with their abusers.
Reports the conversation: ‘Studies show that domestic violence calls to police and shelters in the U.S. have risen between 6% and 21% (variation depending on data source) since the start of the pandemic, with the largest increase happening the first five weeks of quarantine.’
‘Calls to shelters and hotlines have also increased. Google searches for information about domestic violence hotlines have also gone up, with spikes last April, a time when most of the U.S. was under stay-at-home orders.’
Why don’t victims of domestic violence walk away from their abusers and report?
Breaking up an abusive relationship is not easy; shame and isolation are the main components of domestic violence.
Many women are afraid of not being believed, afraid of losing their children, something abusers often threaten to do. These problems, together with the imposed social isolation of women in abusive relationships, low self-esteem, financial hardship, and fear of future violence, lead women to think they have no choice but to continue in such relationships, especially if there are children or other adults they must care for.
They stay, hoping that their partners may change. This makes things very difficult and means that simple solutions are rare. Women still feel responsible for preserving the family and the relationship. Moreover, the abuser knows how to hurt the victim/survivor, how to inflict pain, and often does so subtly, in ways that those around them may not even realize.
Victims/survivors may find themselves in a situation where they need to live in temporary housing on welfare, in fear that children may be taken away by child welfare. Breaking up a relationship may mean moving to an unfamiliar place, far away from family and friends.