Lockdowns, Christmas Holidays and Domestic Violence: A Dangerous Mix
Domestic abuse spikes during the holidays and the coronavirus lockdown will only make things worse. One quarter of all women experience abuse in their lives, and lockdown measures are making it harder to get help.
"Now, observers fear a combination of the two will have grave consequences."
Domestic abuse always increases during the holiday season as families and couples spend more time together at home. Coronavirus lockdown measures, too, have led to increased incidences of abuse as couples and families are further isolated from the outside world. Now, observers fear a combination of the two will have grave consequences.
Social distancing measures have also made it more difficult for victims of abuse to seek help and extricate themselves from torturous relationships. Thus, counseling, shelters for battered women and other outreach programs are more crucial than ever.
"Still, it is victims/survivors who must take the first step to getting help."
Limited to Telephone Counseling
As in almost every other segment of society, the coronavirus has drastically affected the work of outreach counselors helping domestic abuse victims. For instance, in-person counseling has become impossible. These days counseling takes place over the telephone. Johanna Donau says that makes her job more difficult because it is simply tougher to create interpersonal connections and to build trust remotely, "You can't just lean over and hand someone a tissue," she says.
Still, it is victims who must take the first step. "Help options often aren't visible enough to those in need," says Tanja.* The 67-year-old from Hesse was a victim of domestic violence for years before she could free herself from the abusive relationship she was living in. She says if she had been aware of the many avenues available to domestic abuse victims she would have reached out for help sooner.
Ultimately, it was a doctor that encouraged Tanja to get out of the relationship. "Awareness has to be improved," she says. Not only awareness for victims, she explains, but also those around them who may sense something is wrong. Domestic abuse, she says, remains a societal taboo.
Breaking the Silence
That is also how Johanna Donau sees it. She goes further, in fact, saying domestic violence is more than a taboo and that victims themselves are often stigmatized by society: "It makes me furious to hear people say things like 'You could have left,' or 'Why do you let him do that to you?'" She says all too often guilt is actually projected onto the victim herself. Donau says it starts with the abusive partner, who often makes the victim feel as if they themselves are at fault — a dynamic that then extends to family and friends.
That is where Tanja was luckier than most. She says those around her helped free her from her torment and seek help: "I am standing here today because of the help that so many people offered me." She says if there is one piece of advice she would give those in similar situations it would be: "Don't wait! Get out! The longer you suffer, the more broken you will be."
Be safe this holiday season and if you or someone you know needs help call 800-799-7233 or visit thehotline.org.
This article is from DW.com