Tuesday, October 20, 2020

COVID 19 lockdown – are domestic abuse victims safe at home or stuck at home?

For almost every Motswana, the next 28 days of lockdown portends a nightmare, but for most of the women, their partners are the nightmare monsters.

For victims of domestic violence, the COVID-19 lockdown is a double-whammy.

Lerato Moalusi of Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre told Sunday Standard Lifestyle that, “women are stuck in their own homes and are facing serious trouble and asking for help. More violent episodes are likely as victims are constantly trapped at home with their abusers because of the lockdown imposed by the government in a bid to limit the spread of COVID-19. As it stands, we are receiving more and more cases since the lockdown has started but as always, we continue to respond to the cases. We are still rescuing women from imminent danger and we currently have a spill over at the main shelter that houses these women and have decided to look for another place.

We anticipate large numbers seeing as the lockdown has really just begun. We seriously fear that a lot of violence is being perpetrated at the moment and we have decided to find other places where these women can go in other towns which would make it easier. When we receive S.O.S calls from women in Palapye, we will take them to a shelter in Palapye instead of bringing them to our shelter in Gaborone.

“We are working together with the Ministry of Local Government, who aid us in finding these shelters, social workers because they play a huge role in helping us identify these women and the Ministry of Health who assist us with the technical support with regards to how we should take care of ourselves during this pandemic. All have been a great help to us.”

Domestic violence cases are expected to outpace COVID-19 cases as husbands vent out their frustrations on their wives and children during lockdown.

Abused women are now forced to isolate themselves with their perpetrator, which cuts them off from any support system they have. They are now at more risk than ever. There is no break. In unhappy relationships, all the methods people have incorporated to relive their distress are not available anymore. A lot of people will be connecting with friends and family online but that doesn’t take them away physically from the problems in the relationship. 

During normal conditions, victims of domestic abuse can seek help outside the home or at work. Staying with friends might have been an option when things got too difficult. Now, many are stuck in the same space as their abuser. The window for seeking help has narrowed.  Everyone is paying a price, whether from a loss of income or a lack of social contact. Unfortunately, for those already in unsafe situations under the shadow of domestic violence, self-isolation could be fatal. Any time an abusive partner may be feeling a loss of power and control it greatly impacts how victims and survivors are being treated in their homes.

Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology lecturer at the University of Botswana says, “while men experience domestic violence, women make up the majority of victims facing elevated rates of domestic violence. But during times of crisis such as natural disasters, wars, and epidemics the risk of gender-based-violence escalates. Domestic violence is rooted in power and control, right now, we are all feeling a lack of control over our lives and an individual who cannot manage that will take it out on their victim. People who were already in an abusive situation will likely find themselves facing more extreme violence, and can no longer escape by going to work or seeing friends. Many victims also feel that they can no longer seek refuge at their parents’ home, for fear that they could expose their elderly parents to the virus. For some, travel restrictions may limit their ability to stay with loved ones.”

Domestic violence affects people of all ages, genders, sexualities and levels of income. It’s not a problem directed solely at women, although they are statistically more likely to experience domestic violence than men. Children are also suffering in these circumstances, as witnessing abuse can take the same toll on young people’s mental health as actually being abused themselves. As the coronavirus lockdown keeps families confined to their homes, where worries over money and anxiety about the future can explode, child abuse and domestic violence are directly connected to stress. 

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The Telegraph October 21

Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 21, 2020.