Asmita was in the bathroom, shaking. She quietly wiped the tears rolling down her cheek and gingerly touched her upper arm. Her husband had just hit her because the sound of their son crying could be heard on the teleconference he was on. She was in the kitchen and didn’t notice that their 1 yr old had woken up. Her husband used to hit her occasionally when they had fights. But these incidents were rare but now since the lockdown started, they became more and more frequent.
One of the consequences of the lockdown and being locked in together, is that worldwide, there is an increase in domestic violence rates. French government estimated a 30% increase in domestic violence rates, while an UK based NGO that deals with domestic abuse reported that in a single day, they received 700% more calls. National Commission for Women in India has recorded double the number of calls they receive. However, experts suspect that this is just the tip of the iceberg as the very nature of the lockdown denies the abused women the privacy they require to reach out for help. Several thousands of women in India could be suffering from domestic abuse.
The social distancing and the requirement to stay at home, avoid going for work and meeting friends and family, while is effective in spreading the coronavirus, has brought about circumstances that increases domestic violence. Domestic abuse tends to go up whenever families have to spend more time than usual together, like holidays. Even weekends tend to see a higher rate of domestic abuse than weekdays. Now couples are forced to spend weeks together without a break from each other. This is coupled with an increase in stress levels. There is job insecurity, pressures of working from home, economic slowdown and the fear of coronavirus. This increased stress levels are often expressed as irritation, which can quickly escalate to violence. Alcohol usually makes it worse, but now the absence of alcohol and the resultant cravings and other withdrawal symptoms can make it all the more worse. This is all the more true for relationships which were violent before, but violence can happen for the first time during the lockdown too.
If you are going through abuse, there are couple of things to keep in mind;
BACK UP PLAN: It might not be easy calling for help or even leaving the house, however it is good to keep a backup plan in mind. If you do decide to leave, where will you go and how will you reach there? Is there a neighbour who lives close by or maybe in the same apartment complex as you, who you can turn to for help?
SUPPORT CLOSE BY: As travelling considerable distance might not be practical now, it is better to keep someone close by in mind. It is also a good idea to have someone check on you. If the said friend/family who lives close by can check on you regularly to make sure that you are fine, it will definitely help.
AVOID TRIGGERS : Another thing to keep in mind in these uncertain times is to not provoke abuse as far as possible. Though abuse can happen for no reason too, very often there are definite things that provoke the abuser. It could be wide variety of things, and they vary from person to person. But someone who has lived with the abuser for a while will know the triggers and if you can avoid them as far as possible, that will help. This includes things like staying out of their way and giving them their space. However, there are plenty of situations where violence is unprovoked and in which case for your safety, you need to leave the house or call the police.
National Commission for Women has launched a WhatsApp number 7217735372 for reporting domestic violence during the lockdown period. You can also call the police in situations where you feel your life is in danger. If want to talk about situation, you can also call/write to us for counselling support.