Violence Against Women Increasing During Pandemic

Published date22 August 2020
Publication titleASEAN Tribune

22 August 2020 (VOA) 'He's in the next room - if he hears me, I'll have to hang up.'

That call to the Family Place, an organization in Dallas, Texas, focused on stopping family violence, reflects the reality of many women worldwide who are trapped in close quarters with their abusers during the pandemic.

For some, the COVID-related stress of lockdowns, job losses and other limitations is worsening an already abusive situation. For others, the abuse is new, the result of frustrations and fears.

As the coronavirus spread from its point of origin in Wuhan, China, late in 2019, the United Nations in April issued a warning of a shadow pandemic, an increase in domestic violence against women.

The behavior isn't restricted to physical, sexual or psychological abuse and can include tactics such as forced child marriage. Worldwide, women are the most likely to be victims in part because they are less educated and less able to exert control over their own lives than men.

'As more countries report infection and lockdown, more domestic violence help lines and shelters across the world are reporting rising calls for help,' Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of U.N. Women, said on April 6.

And as COVID-19 persists, so has the shadow pandemic.

'It's stressful for anybody. But when you add financial problems and you have an abusive partner who is also unemployed - it's a bad recipe,' said Paige Flink, executive director of the Family Place.

Hotline calls

Overall, calls to domestic violence hotlines in Texas cities spiked in March as the state locked down, according to a roundup compiled by the magazine Texas Monthly, even as calls for help from rural areas fell, partly the result of a digital divide that leaves a third of the state's residents without broadband at home. Or, as some authorities have suggested, the drop occurred because victims cannot evade their abusers during lockdown to reach out for help.

The daily lives of many women are tracked by their abusive partners, Flink said, with any unaccounted-for time often seen as a challenge to authority or proof of an affair. But the shortages and reduced services that are the pandemic's hallmark in the U.S. offered some women in Texas a lifeline.

'Hours [spent] in line were natural, so some women would call us, literally from the Walmart parking lot,' said Flink, whose organization provides counseling, temporary housing and other services for women and children.

As of Saturday, Texas had reported a COVID-19 toll of more...

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