The mainstream media has played a huge role in shaping the conversation around the current Covid-19 outbreak. From its earliest days, the pandemic has been played out across the web and in the pages of both broadsheet and tabloid newspapers, giving a wide variety of perspectives on both the virus itself and its ramifications.
One of the most significant areas which has been highlighted during the current crisis, is domestic abuse. The press has been full of stories highlighting the rise in crime throughout this period, as well as ways this can be handled more effectively.
Inequality fuels domestic violence
A particularly striking news item in the Telegraph noted the role that inequality plays in domestic abuse, not just in the UK but around the world. The Covid-19 pandemic has left many countries remaining in some form of lockdown or partial quarantine, even as some services and industries begin to open up, with the public advised to remain at home as much as possible and limit interactions with others outside the household.
This means that staying at home can be particularly dangerous, as abusers who might otherwise have been at work or outside the property are now spending more time with their victims than ever before. Reports have come out across the globe about the rise in domestic abuse cases, and many national and regional police teams have witnessed that spike firsthand.
In Hubei Province in China, domestic abuse cases tripled for the month of February 2020, coinciding with the lockdown in the country. There are additional fears that as domestic abuse is poorly reported, the actual figures are likely to be much higher.
The Telegraph report is also quick to mention that in many cases, there appears to be a notable link between inequality and domestic abuse. For instance, in India, there are more domestic abuse cases involving poorer women than richer ones; with these cases often encompassing everything from psychological to physical and even sexual abuse at the hands of their partners.
Conflict also plays a role, with countries such as Afghanistan reporting higher than usual numbers. This report argues that the current coronavirus crisis is serving to shine a spotlight on domestic abuse in general. It also argues that more safe spaces for abuse victims are required, and the pandemic could provide the ideal springboard for ensuring a healthier backdrop for abuse victims everywhere.
Three women die each day due to domestic violence
One of the most damning news stories to appear since the lockdown is the revelation that three women die every day as a result of domestic abuse during quarantine.
There were more than 4000 new reports of domestic abuse between the end of March and the end of April, demonstrating that life for some in lockdown has become particularly unbearable. The chief executive of the Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Air (BSWA), Maureen Conolly, stated that there were 24 deaths relating to domestic abuse, simply within the first seven weeks of the UK implementing quarantine.
However, the expert was also keen to stress that lockdown did not cause domestic abuse – merely highlighted it, and provided those suffering at the hands of abusers few outlets to find respite and safety. Connolly also argued that there was not sufficient communication with vulnerable people about what lockdown would mean for them domestically, and a lack of stable accommodation for these individuals led to abusive situations which could otherwise have been avoided.
News reports state that this surge in cases is likely to continue until the lockdown is entirely lifted and people feel safe enough to travel more freely. At present, it would seem many feel that enduring dangerous situations is preferable to risking their health with a dangerous virus.
Remote court hearings implemented regionally
North Wales Police are seemingly paving the way for a new form of policing, pioneering virtual court bearings to ensure that instigators of domestic abuse do not escape justice.
An impressive new system is encouraging police to make applications to remote court, and implementing Domestic Violence Protection Orders where necessary. These orders are an important step for victims of domestic abuse, as they give them the space to discover their options and gain crucial support. This is particularly important during a time when many people are spending a record amount of time indoors – unable to escape abusive situations.
The orders prevent perpetrators from having any contact with their victims, or returning to their place of residence for 28 days. This effectively breaks the cycle of abuse. The system has already been highly praised by the local Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, who prioritises an end to domestic abuse.
Changes have come about after Lord Chief Justice Burnett asked the justice system to look for ways of handling cases remotely.
Domestic abuse victims told to give evidence in person
Victims of domestic abuse have been informed to give evidence in person, which has sparked fears of a resulting spike in coronavirus infections. These fears were highlighted by numerous support groups and charities, who state this is an unethical and unnecessary step in the current pandemic. Eighteen organisations which target domestic abuse and women’s rights have all teamed up to write to House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, telling him how unacceptable these conditions are.
The regulations state that domestic abuse survivors are to attend parliament to discuss their grievances. Prior to this new arrangement, there have been ‘hybrid’ arrangements in place throughout the pandemic, giving victims the space to communicate via a video link. This decision to alter the rules has been made by Rees-Mogg, likely influenced by ongoing loosening of restrictions across the UK.
At present, there are at least three women who are set to testify on the 4th June 2020, as part of the domestic abuse bill. This legislation is considered highly anticipated, and will undergo rigorous scrutiny by 17 MPs in order to reach its most effective form.
The women are to give expert evidence of their own experienced with domestic abuse, and their testimonies are considered critical to the success of the bill.