According to the Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres: 'We are seeing a horrifying global surge in violence' that appears to be linked to nationwide lockdowns in places around the world.
The UK’s National Domestic abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls since lockdown measures began, while traffic to its website went up by 150%, according to the charity Refuge UK.
Some countries have seen the number of women calling for support double.
Lockdowns are trapping people at home with abusive partners and now restricted movement, social isolation and economic pressure are leading to more violence at home.
This comes at a time when health and emergency services are also overwhelmed, Guterres explained.
Contrary to popular belief, domestic abuse doesn’t just affect women and it doesn’t just mean physical violence between partners. It includes sexual, verbal, emotional and financial (such as using up all of someone’s money) abuse in relationships or between family members.
What you can do
If you’re affected by domestic abuse, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself.
Call or go online to reach your local or national domestic abuse charity or helpline.
Most countries and often provinces and cities will have their own services. For example:
- in the UK, there is the National Domestic Abuse Helpline
- in the US, there is the National Domestic Violence Helpline
- in Australia, there is the National Sexual Assault Doemstic family violence counselling service
Make a safety plan
Even though you've been asked to stay home, it’s okay to leave your house and seek help if you’re experiencing abuse.
Make a safety plan and be ready to escape if you’re in danger. If you can’t get out, call the police or ask your friend or family member to.
To make your plan:
- choose a friend, family member or neighbour you trust. Tell them about your situation and that you might be at risk
- agree on a code word with friends and family so they can call the police if you’re unable to
- leave an overnight bag with friends or family if you can
- if you have children, make sure they know where to go in your home to stay safe
- don’t be afraid to call the police if you need to - or teach your children to
- rehearse an escape plan in case you need to leave urgently, despite the lockdown
- put money aside if you can without drawing attention and keep a small amount of money and bank cards on you at all times
- if you have a mobile phone, keep it on you at all times
The UK service Women’s Aid has more information on surviving abuse during the coronavirus pandemic.
If you think you may have coronavirus, you can use our COVID-19 Symptom Mapper to check your symptoms and compare them with others around the world.
This should give you a better understanding of how the illness is affecting you and will help us to map the spread of the outbreak.
Tweet by Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres.[Internet] Twitter.com 2020 [Cited 14 April]. Available here.
25% increase in calls to National Domestic Abuse helpline since lockdown measures began. [Internet] Refuge.org.uk [Cited 14 April]. Available here.
Coronavirus (Covid-19): Support for victims of domestic abuse. [Internet] gov.uk [Cited 14 April]. Available here.
Domestic violence and abuse [Internet] nhs.uk [cited 14 April]. Available here.
What is financial abuse? [Internet] Womensaid.org.uk [Cited 14 April]. Available here.
Coronavirus: Safety tips for survivors [Internet] Refuge.org.uk [Cited 14 April]. Available here.