The issue of violence against women in our society can never be over-emphasized especially during the period of conflict as we are experiencing now.
Globally, 1 in 3 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence by any perpetrator in their lifetime. Most of this is intimate partner violence.
As social distancing and lockdown measures are put in place, the risk of intimate partner violence is likely to increase. For instance: The likelihood that women in an abusive relationship and their children will be exposed to violence is dramatically increased, as family members spend more time in close contact and families cope with additional stress and potential economic or job losses.
Women may have less contact with family and friends who may provide support and protection from violence. School closures further exacerbate this burden and place more stress on them.
The disruption of livelihoods and ability to earn a living, including for women (many of whom are informal wage workers), will decrease access to basic needs and services, increasing stress on families, with the potential to exacerbate conflicts and violence. As resources become more scarce, women may be at greater risk for experiencing economic abuse.
Perpetrators of abuse may use restrictions due to COVID-19 to exercise power and control over their partners to further reduce access to services, help and psychosocial support from both formal and informal networks. Perpetrators may also restrict access to necessary items such as soap and hand sanitizer. Perpetrators may exert control by spreading misinformation about the disease and stigmatize partners.
Access to vital sexual and reproductive health services, including for women subjected to violence, will likely become more limited.
Tips for coping with stress at home and actions to take if you or your family members are experiencing violence:
Be aware that social isolation, quarantine, and distancing can have impacts on you and your family’s psychological well-being.
To the extent possible, reduce sources of stress by: Seeking information from reliable sources and reducing the time spent consuming news (1-2 times per day, rather than every hour). Seeking support from family and friends via phone calls, text, or/and emails if you can.
Trying, to the extent possible, to maintain daily routines and make time for physical activity and sleep. Using relaxation exercises (e.g. slow breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, grounding exercises) to relieve stressful thoughts and feelings.
Engaging in activities that in the past have helped with managing stress and adversity.
Women who are experiencing violence may find it helpful: To reach out to supportive family and friends who can help practically (e.g. food, child care) as well as in coping with stress. To develop a safety plan for their and their children’s safety in case the violence gets worse. This includes keeping numbers of neighbours, friends and family whom you can call for or go to for help; have accessible important documents, money, a few personal things to take with you if you need to leave immediately; and plan how you might exit the house and access help (e.g. transport, location). To keep information about violence against women hotlines, social workers, child protection or nearest police station, shelters or support services that are accessible. Be discrete so that your partner or family members do not find out and you keep safe.
Make sure you stay safe!!!