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Rise in domestic and gender-based violence presents ‘new Covid crisis’

17 April 2020


A posed picture representing the reported increase in domestic and gender-based violence due to the lockdown measures

A posed picture representing the reported increase in domestic and gender-based violence due to the lockdown measures

A HUGE rise in domestic and gender-based violence due to the lockdown measures is the new “Covid crisis”, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has said.

The WCC has urged people to support its “Thursdays in Black” campaign, which emerged out of its decade of solidarity with women, in which supporters wear black each week to draw attention to the plight of those suffering rape and sexual violence. Supporters have taken to social media to highlight the plight of those at risk of abuse.

The president of the World Fed­era­tion of Methodist and Uniting Church Women, Alison Judd, post­­ed: “We are told to stay at home and stay safe. But for some that feels im­­possible. Some women, some child­ren, men even, face another risk dur­ing this pandemic. They fear the person who lives with them.”

The general secretary of the Swed­ish Bible Society, the Revd Dr And­­ers Göranzon, said: “A person close to Jesus betrayed him. It happens to many vulnerable persons in times of isolation, mostly women and chil­dren.”

The secretary-general of the UN, António Guterres, has described a “horrifying surge” in reports of vio­lence since the lockdown. He said: “Violence is not confined to the battlefield.”

“We know lockdowns and quar­an­tines are essential to suppres­s­ing Covid-19, but they can trap wo­men with abusive partners,” Mr Guterres said. “Over the past weeks, as the economic and social pressures and fear have grown, we have seen a hor­rifying surge in domestic violence.”

He said that in some countries, “the number of women calling sup­port services has doubled”, while “healthcare pro­viders and police are overwhelmed and understaffed.”

In Australia there has been a 75­­­­-per-cent increase in online searches for help with domestic violence.

In South Africa, authorities said that there were nearly 90,000 reports of violence against women in the first week of a lockdown.

In Spain, the emergency phone number for domestic violence re­­ceived 18 per cent more calls in the first two weeks of lockdown than in the same period a month earlier.

French police have reported a nationwide spike of about 30 per cent in domestic violence.

The UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, Refuge, has reported a 700-­per-cent increase in calls to its helpline in a single day.

The Christian charity Tearfund is highlighting the plight of domestic-abuse victims, and said that its partners in the Middle East are in regular contact by phone or text message with those most at risk.

Tearfund’s country director for Jordan and Lebanon, Karen Soerensen, said: “In Jordan, at the weekends, nobody at all is allowed to go outside their front door. Inevitably this puts families living in very small apartments with no outdoor space under huge pressure, especially considering the added financial stress of not knowing when they’ll be able to get their next meal.

“In Lebanon, Tearfund’s partner works in a slum area where there are reports of a high rate of gender-based violence. Social workers and psychologists are actively in touch with people who are in a situation of high risk of domestic abuse and supporting these people with regular telephone calls.”

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