STAY HOME — this is the directive everyone has been given these last couple of weeks in light of the COVID-19 crisis, to avoid getting infected with the coronavirus. Aside from frequent handwashing, avoiding crowded places is one of the ways this can be achieved.
Home is the safest place you can be in the midst of this crisis. For victims of domestic abuse, however, staying home means escaping the virus, but not their abuser.
As lockdowns are implemented around the world to contain the coronavirus, cases of abuse have also risen.
In France, reports of domestic violence have jumped by 30% since it went on lockdown on March 17, the interior minister says.
In Nepal, where 26% of women already suffer spousal abuse according to a 2019 report by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, there is a fear that the lockdown may put women at greater risk for abuse, the Kathmandu Post reports.
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"Home symbolizes a space of love and safety but if the family member happens to be abusive, the most dangerous place in the world can turn out to be our own home,” said Uma Shah, whose organization Saathi advocates against violence.
In the Philippines, our women face a similar situation. Though the numbers are undetermined because many cases go unreported, the Commission on Human Rights has said in a statement, "the CHR has observed that heightened occurrence of abuse is a pattern repeated in many emergencies—whether driven by conflict, disasters, economic crisis, or during disease outbreaks."
"We encourage the government to adopt measures ensuring that victims of abuses have access to legal aid, such as restraining orders even during crisis; to provide safe shelters and financial aid for those who wanted to leave their house; and to provide medical and psychological care through helpline services which victims could access via online chats and texting services as calls might not be the most safe way of reporting," it said.
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France and in Spain have already developed code systems to help a woman report her violent partner to authorities without being detected.
Locally, abused women may seek help by dialing the Philippine National Police (PNP) Women and Children Protection Center at 8723-0401 local 5260 or 5261, or the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) at 8931-8101 to 07.