Coronavirus lockdown can worsen instances of gender-based violence, says women’s group
Being forced into confinement with an abuser could lead to more victims seeking out help
Coronavirus social distancing isn’t easy for anyone, but even in this situation that’s been trying for absolutely everyone, there are some who are having an even harder time than others, such as victims of gender-based violence.
Women’s rights groups, including Tamaia Viure Sense Violència, explain that a number of women who are victims of this kind of sexist violence are now stuck at home with their abusers or, for example, have to share the custody of their children with them far from the gaze of others.
“The feeling of lack of control [due to coronavirus lockdown] also affects instances of violence because one of the abusers’ strategies is, precisely, to take complete control over a woman’s life, her daily activities and her needs,” explains Raquel Escurriol Martínez, a psychologist who works with abused women at Tamaia.
Resources available to women in Catalonia
Aware of the heightened stress levels women in this situation are facing, the Catalan government’s Women’s Insitute has enhanced its hotline for victims as well as created a new WhatsApp messaging service to work alongside its email response service. Catalan authorities have reported an overall 34% increase in calls, but are receiving fewer from women who still live with their abusers.
Tamaia, on the other hand, has noticed a decrease in the number of calls they receive these days, although they are also experiencing an increase in the number of written messages they receive from women that have been finding alternative ways of seeking out help.
“The number of calls we usually received from women, their friends and family members or professionals has gone down, but the number of written messages we receive - be it via social networks or email - has increased considerably,” says Escurriol Martínez.
Spanish government measures
Meanwhile, the Spanish government has launched an online campaign and issued a guide for victims of gender-based violence during lockdown in which it lists a number of resources available to them, and has said it would look into providing alternative housing for those who need it the most.
“Another new measure is that of allowing victims of sexist violence stay at tourist accommodation during this period,” said Spanish government spokesperson María Jesús Montero on March 31, although it is not entirely clear how this has been enforced.
Heightened tension, heightened awareness
The coronavirus crisis has tested us as a society, bringing out the best in many who have stepped up to be there for others when possible, but increased stress, fear, and uncertainty has also brought out the worst in some. Victims of sexist violence have had to bear the brunt of this as the only space they can inhabit has become reduced to the few square meters they share with the men who attempt to control them.
But perhaps coming out of this, as Escurriol Martínez has suggested, some of the women who have been forced into lockdown with their abusers will realize just how unsustainable their situation is and seek out ways of confronting this truth.