As the world fights the difficult war against coronavirus, it is fighting a silent war against domestic abuse. Governments across the world are requiring their citizens to stay home in order to stay safe. However, for those living with an abuser, staying at home is a dangerous option that could cost them their lives. Countries with strict combative measures, like Jordan, are being praised by the international community for their success in effectively controlling the spread of the virus. Yet countries that impose strict lockdown measures make it difficult for those facing domestic violence to escape their abusers.
Early on, Jordan imposed a 24-hour lockdown, where its citizens couldn’t even leave their houses to obtain essential items. The Jordanian military began delivering food and water to its people to sustain them during the lockdown. People swarmed the food delivery trucks creating a chaotic situation that led the government to loosen its restrictions. Now Jordan has a curfew where people are permitted to get essential items from local grocery stores between the hours of 10:00am to 6:00pm. Air raid sirens sound across the country to indicate when people are required to be inside. Those caught violating the curfew can face up to a year imprisonment.
This scenario is not unique to Jordan. For those in danger all over the world, it becomes difficult for them to leave abusive situations out of fear that they will face severe repercussions. Many who are injured by an abuser hesitate to seek treatment at hospitals due to the coronavirus threat. Human rights groups all over the world are reporting an increase in domestic violence. In Wuhan, China, during the province’s complete lockdown, authorities reported that domestic violence complaints increased threefold. Officials are concerned that the United States will follow a similar pattern as conditions worsen and more cities go under lockdown. Currently, in the United States alone, one in four women face domestic abuse in their lifetime. This number could increase amid the COVID-19 crisis and the economic downturn that will come with it.
Financial difficulty is often tied to domestic violence. As unemployment numbers spike across the world due to unemployment caused by coronavirus, it is inevitable that cases of abuse will too. Financial recessions particularly impact women, who are already economically disadvantaged compared to men. Some women are forced to stay with their abusers, who serve as a means of financial support. As America enters an era equivalent to or worse than the Great Depression, and the world follows along with it, human rights groups must pay special attention to those facing domestic abuse.
Many countries, including Jordan and the United States, have domestic violence hotlines that victims can call to ask for help. Such hotlines are receiving a significant increase in calls. COVID-19 is being used as a tool for abusers to further control and intimidate their victims. Not all victims are in situations where they feel comfortable enough to ask for help or have the proper resources. A hotline caller from New York reported that her partner through her out on the street for being ill and kept their child. Another caller reported being held at gunpoint by her abuser.
These stories are pervasive in the global community and human rights groups should be alarmed. Abuse is a one of the most alarming human rights violations that is associated with COVID-19, but it is being largely ignored and victims are being left to suffer in silence.