The coronavirus outbreak has brought about a disturbing surge in cases of domestic violence, with the 1440 helpline receiving over 2,000 calls between the date of the confirmation of the island’s first coronavirus case and March 31.
In a press release on Thursday, the Association for the Prevention and Handling of Family Violence said that of the 2,075 calls received by the domestic violence hotline since coronavirus broke out on March 9, the Association could only respond to 921, with the remaining 1,154 calls remaining unanswered as the helpline had often been flooded with calls.
In a period of just 23 days, 15 requests had been made to be transferred to shelters, while 12 women had requested personal counselling and 230 had reported cases of family violence, corresponding to over 10 cases per day.
The Association warned that calls and reports regarding domestic violence are maintaining a highly-concerning upward trend, mirroring the rising degree of danger and intensity of violence against women and children brought about by the restriction measures enforced in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus.
According to the domestic violence Association, the measures that require women and children to remain home act as a tool in the hands of perpetrators, who are now able to use abuse tactics such as withholding means of personal protection including antiseptic liquids, masks, and medicine; withholding or using children as a means of exercising psychological violence; flouting protective measures and exposing women and children to an increased risk of contracting the virus.
Also among the abuse tactics listed by the Association are dangerous behaviours on behalf of perpetrators such as forcing women into excessive uses of personal protection measures, sometimes until they bleed or form wounds; threatening to throw women and children out of their home and be exposed to the virus; misinforming women on the level of danger of the virus causing excessive fear which pressures women to remain home and refrain from seeking help, therefore remaining exposed to the perpetrator’s violence; and obstructing women from seeking medical and other help in cases where they develop symptoms.
The Association stressed that it continues to provide help through the 1440 helpline, teleconferences and other forms of contact, while shelters remain in full operation.