With COVID-19 taking the world by storm, almost every country has issued different regulations for their people, all along the lines of quarantine or lockdown. In simpler terms, most of us are all stuck at home in order to contain this virus.
Although an inconvenience, lockdown is the best option we have as of this moment, according to several health experts. Due to the highly infectious nature of this virus, COVID-19 would spread way too quickly to way too many people without social distancing. This may not seem like a big deal, considering this is not necessarily a deadly virus. However, it can definitely become deadly for many demographics including individuals over the age of 60 and individuals with underlying medical conditions. As a society, we need to take the responsibility of looking out for each other, making sure the people around us are safe. Additionally, rapidly increasing numbers of COVID-19 victims could cause a flood of untreated patients as hospitals become full to their maximum capacities and such facilities become understaffed, which is already happening today in major cities such as New York.
So, I’m sure most of you understand why it’s important to stay at home during these unpredictable times, despite how much you dread it. You may be losing your mind from not being able to hang out with your friends, or from having to be stuck at home with your annoying siblings; it may seem like the worst time of your life. However, there are many households around the world who are experiencing their actual worst nightmares that might make your inconveniences seem like nothing.
For many people, being forced to stay at home means being forced to stay with their hostile abusers.
Spain had one of the strictest lockdowns as the government deployed military personnels in large cities to police the streets and ensure every single person stayed indoors. The fear of leaving the house left many at home, stuck with violent and dangerous abusers. There was a 47% increase in calls to domestic violence helplines during the first two weeks of April alone (which was during lockdown), compared to the same time period last year. The number of women contacting support services regarding similar issues along the lines of domestic violence has also increased by as much as 700%.
The UK has also seen a drastic increase in domestic violence reports. The number of calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline was reported to be 25% above average during the second week of lockdown and 49% above average by the third. Additionally, an increase in domestic abuse murders has been observed as well. In the three weeks that followed lockdown, there were 16 domestic abuse murders (14 women and 2 children) in England and Wales, which is an alarmingly high number compared to usual rates in the past.
According to a Singapore police report made on May 14, there has been a 22% increase in domestic violence reports. An average of 389 cases are reported every month in Singapore, but an additional 100 cases were reported within a month into circuit breaker, resulting in a total of 467 cases between April 7 to May 6.
Every three months of lockdown could result in 15 million more cases of domestic abuse than would normally be expected.UNFPA
Overall, despite the fact that these lockdown measures have been imposed in order to contain a viral pandemic, the United Nations has described this issue of domestic violence as a “shadow pandemic” alongside COVID-19. As of April 28, the UN predicts a 20% surge in domestic violence worldwide during the coronavirus lockdown. According to the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), the UN sexual and reproductive health agency, “every three months of lockdown could result in 15 million more cases of domestic abuse than would normally be expected.” To make matters worse, researchers have stated that “tens of millions of women may be unable to access contraception”, resulting in numerous unwanted pregnancies, and “millions more girls could be married off or subjected to female genital mutilation.”
You may have thought that this lockdown, which has stopped you from seeing your friends or going to prom, was the worst thing that could have happened to you. I understand that and your feelings are completely valid. You’re allowed to be sad about the time we’ve all lost to this pandemic. However, a “shadow pandemic” is happening simultaneously and most of us seem to be unaware of it.
By bringing this to your attention, I hope you realize the bigger struggles and problems that millions of people across the world are facing. I don’t mean to make you feel bad about your own feelings towards the inconveniences you face, but maybe this makes you feel more grateful for what we do have: safety. Or if you are going through similar struggles regarding domestic violence or abuse, know that you are not alone and there are systems in place to help you (e.g. AWARE helpline at 1800-777-5555).
Hopefully our lives will return to normal soon enough, but until then, stay safe and look out for those around you! Pay attention to the small things around you, check up on the ones you love, and appreciate what you have 🙂