Domestic violence and child abuse is on a rise during the lockdown! Here’s what to do
Social distancing and isolation are important for preventing the spread of corona virus. However, for some people, home is not a safe haven. It is a known fact that isolation is a common tactic that abusers use to gain power and control their partner’s movements. During such times, when there is no physical space between the abuser and the victim, the situation can worsen in homes where mistreatment and violence prevails. Jessica Gandhi, a Hypnotherapist, Neuro-Linguistic Programming coach and a Life coach discusses why domestic and child abuse is on the rise and how to heal it.
Before the lockdown, a survivor or victim could flee from a violent situation or file a First Information Report with the police. However, an escape becomes tough when you are in a lockdown with a perpetrator. India’s National Commission for Women (NCW) has reported a twofold rise in domestic violence since the lockdown began in India. Confinement, lack of resources and disruption in finances coupled with lack of access to alcohol has further digressed the situation. The Childline India helpline has received more than 92,000 calls between 20-31 March.
Following are the reasons why domestic violence takes place:
- Increased stress levels among parents
Stressed parents may react to the anxious behavior of their children in abusive ways. This is a major predictor of physical abuse and neglect of children.
2. Challenges for working parents to handle children and work from home
The support systems that parents relied on are no longer available due to social distancing. These include extended family, maids, nannies, child care and schools, religious groups and other community organizations. Teachers and school counselors would usually make out the signs of abuse and report to the concerned authorities as the children are no longer going to school, hence children often become the outlet for frustrated parents.
Effects of child abuse and neglect
Child abuse and neglect can have a tremendous impact on lifelong health and well-being, if left untreated. For example, exposure to violence in childhood increases the risks of injury, violence, victimization and perpetration, substance abuse, sexually transmitted infections, delayed brain development, lower educational attainment, and limited employment opportunities as a result.
Following are the strategies to put yourself in a safe position:
- Watch out for signs of emotional triggers
During social distancing, most abusers will feel more triggered, even if you are not doing anything wrong. Therefore, it is vital to reduce opportunities for these emotional triggers. Calming activities like watching movies that make you happy, playing games with children and avoiding consumption of violent content can help.
2. Remain calm when your partner is triggered
When they start getting upset, avoid criticism and blame. Respond in a way that puts your safety first. Try the ‘EAR’ approach which stands for empathy, attention or respect.
Empathy: “I know you’re frustrated during such a hard time. Let me help you out.”
Attention: “I am listening to you so tell me what’s frustrating you right now. I really want to understand you better”
Respect: “I really respect your efforts to solve this. I’ll respect your space.”
3. Get factual information about COVID 19
An abusive partner may control access to the information about the virus, may share inaccurate information, and they may actively interfere with a survivor’s attempts to protect themselves by withholding hand sanitizer or intentionally attempting to infect them, if they are exposed to the virus.
Try to find accurate information from the World Health Organization. This will help you understand exactly what’s happening, what’s recommended and how to keep yourself, and your children, safe.
4. Document conversations with your partner
Document everything the partner says and does, in case you want to report the incident to the police authorities or Non-Governmental Organisations for women and children, now or in the future. Documenting can be done through shooting videos, recording conversations, threat calls and messages etc. to you or your loved ones who can be used by the perpetrator or his parents as a way of intimidation. Being armed with proof is your best weapon to get justice, once the pandemic has passed.
5. Shelters for women and children are providing support
Centres for women and child care and shelter homes for survivors of domestic violence are considered essential services in most states and are open 24* 7. Many organizations are now providing remote counselling services and are available for help.
6. Connect with other family members and friends
Connect with supportive and caring people, not those who might blame you for the abuse. Do not keep to yourself. Involve your family members, friends and loved ones who care for you. It will help you in coping with stress. Other family members can also help you to take care of your child, if they can keep your child at their place for a few days.
7. Seek help from an online psychologist
Seek help from an online psychologist or other licensed mental health providers. Do not hesitate to seek help from a professional. If you wish to connect with a therapist, CLICK HERE.
8. Practice relaxation exercises
Use relaxation exercises (e.g. slow breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, grounding exercises) to relieve stressful thoughts and feelings.
9. Stay equipped with helplines
Stay updated with information on hotlines for violence against women, social workers, child protection or nearest police station, and accessible shelters and support services.
10. Find a safe place within the house
Identify safe areas of the house where there are no weapons (e.g., not the kitchen) and there are ways to escape. If arguments begin, try to move to one of those areas. If violence occurs, dive into a corner and curl up into a ball, with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined. This will comfort your child.
11. Keep your mobile phone with you 24*7
If possible, have a phone handy at all times and know what numbers to call for help, if the violence escalates.
12. Keep a backpack ready in case of an emergency
Pack a bag (include money, an extra set of keys, copies of important documents, extra clothes and medicines) and leave it in a safe place or with someone you trust.
13. Plan a code word to reach out for help
Instruct your children to try and not to get involved in the violence between you and your partner. Plan a code word to signal to your child that you both should get help or leave the house.
14. Practice how to get out safely with your children
Practice with your children how to get out safely from the house, if need be. Call a domestic violence hotline periodically to assess your options and get support and understanding to escape in case of an emergency. Don’t be afraid to call the police.
“The emotional, physical and social scars from domestic and child abuse can have a devastating effect. If we don’t take measures now, the consequences of rising abuse during the coronavirus outbreak will be devastating for many years to come,” said Gandhi.
Also, if you know if someone who is undergoing abuse, do not hesitate in stepping up and helping them out.