Domestic violence is a human rights violation that is present in all societies across the world. An overwhelming majority of victims of domestic violence are women, which makes it a women’s rights issue. As the coronavirus pandemic impacts economic life, many corporations and civil authorities urge to work from home, avoid large gatherings and, in case self-isolate for seven days. Home is the safest place for many, but not for victims of domestic abuse.
“With women and couples self-isolating, there is certainly a higher risk of domestic abuse occurring,” says Rebecca Hitchen, campaigns manager at the End Violence Against Women Coalition said (See 'Higher Risk' Of Domestic Abuse During Coronavirus Self-Isolation, Warn Campaigners HuffPost UK). These women would also find more difficulty to access safety and specialist support. Activists report a surge in cases of domestic abuse as a result of the lockdown in China. “The epidemic has had a huge impact on domestic violence,” according to Wan Fei, a retired police officer who now runs an anti-domestic violence nonprofit organization in Jingzhou, Hubei. Pointing out that the number of cases has almost doubled since the quarantine began, he adds, “According to our statistics, 90% of the causes of violence are related to the Covid-19 epidemic.”
While UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres talks about "Sexual violence against women and girls is rooted in centuries of male domination” adding “Let us not forget that the gender inequalities that fuel rape culture are essentially a question of power imbalances," there are many definitions out there of what people consider to be domestic violence and what situations meet this criteria.
This makes it difficult to properly identify cases of domestic violence. Because based on people’s individual judgements and perceptions, many cases of domestic violence may be dismissed or overlooked.
In the United Nations (UN) Definition of Violence against Women(See Commission on the Status of Women), “the term violence against women means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” (Art. 1)
The United States Department of Justice, under United States law, definition proves how complex of an issue domestic violence is. “The term domestic violence includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner, by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies, or by any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction.”
Therefore, it is not merely a husband physically abusing his wife, which is what many consider to be domestic violence. This misconception is damaging, because it is actively leaving out other ways in which abuse manifests itself which is harmful to the victim. What happens to the woman that is called foul names and degraded on a daily basis, but she does not have any visible markings on her? What happens to the woman that has her access to her own finances restricted to the point where it is as if she has no money to her name? To answer those questions, statistics say that “Based on reports from 10 countries, between 55 percent and 95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners had never contacted non-governmental organizations, shelters, or the police for help.” The figures prompted by UN are alarming since they state:
Domestic violence manifests itself in different forms (emotional, verbal, financial, physical, and sexual) that may at times overlap. Victims feel often forced into living a life of silence out of fear that their stories and experiences will be invalidated, and many of them feel that they are unable to seek out help to get out of an abusive situation and do not report it. This needs to change.
Because domestic violence is such a complex issue, it is important for all people to be informed and active in recognizing the signs of an abusive relationship as well as to knowledge about a number of resources to get them out of an abusive situation in case they are ever in one.
The UN includes domestic violence under the category of “Violence Against Women.” One of the most important resolutions they made that discusses domestic violence is the above-mentioned “Declaration.” As a part of the UN’ Sustainable Development Goals, the Spotlight Initiative was also initiated to combat violence against women, which includes domestic violence. Hopefully, with different measures like these being put in place to educate and empower the public, and especially women, cases of domestic violence will continue to decrease until it is no longer an issue. Hopefully, when the coronavirus ends, society, health state organizations & charitable workers will not leave out of their care of domestic violence sown by this pandemic.