World Health Organization (WHO) has defined violence as: “The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation”.
Violence roots from an individual’s own experience of their childhood and stems due to lack of personal worth and esteem. In India, a patriarchal society, majority reason violence is exercised is due to the in women and the children being vulnerable within the family and losing their voice.
Since the pandemic lockdown, people are stuck in their home with their violent partners who have the tendency to be aggressive and violent. In a country like India, reporting against violence inside the households is a stigma in the society mainly due to the prevailing fear individuals face when they report. There are evidence that highlights that men and women justifying beating the women in the household.
"The more that we choose not to talk about domestic violence, the more we shy away from the issue, the more we lose." ― Russell Wilson
Despite this there are women who have found their bravery and have reported the incidents. Kudos to those women who are setting a right example for other women and their children.
In India, National Commission for Women (NCW) has reported spike in complaints from physically assaulted women by their partner who is under the influence. The consumption of alcohol increases the tendency of physical assaults towards women and children in the household causing higher distress and anxiety among them.
There is an existing economic crises all over the world due to the COVID pandemic leading to economic breakdown, increasing unemployment rates, financial crises, shutting down of businesses and global panic of being indoors causing worries about the health of individuals and their loved ones. Adding on to the pandemic distress, individuals who are experiencing domestic violence face additional pain and suffering causing them to feel helpless.
The only source where individuals who are assaulted can complain is with the police force directly. But there are limited measures and initiatives exist that can protect the individuals who face domestic violence.
What can be done?
In countries like UK and Australia, domestic violence is addressed by the person who is assaulted, who then will be taken out of their home immediately and would be moved to a safer place away from their abuser. Women and children are protected by police officers and even during the quarantine period, measures are taken for the welfare of the individuals who are assaulted.
Domestic violence can occur in any class of population- lower, middle or upper. We need administrative measures and laws to protect the individuals who are vulnerable. The police force should be in the frontline to help the vulnerable individuals against domestic violence.
What to do when you are experiencing assault during lockdown:
1. NDTV has listed helpline numbers in India to contact in case of domestic violence. The helpline numbers are run by police, welfare departments and Non- Governmental Organizations working for the rights of the women.
National Helpline: 181 Women Police Helpline: 1091 and 1291
2. Try to keep someone you trust informed of all times regarding your situation. Talk to them on a regular basis and keep them updated.
3. Resources on other helpline numbers and legal aid services are available on the National Commission for Women website - http://www.ncw.nic.in/helplines
If your friend is experiencing violence and unable to contact, as a friend you can contact the authorities on behalf of your friend. Help them when they need you the most.
Domestic violence is preventable and each and every one of us should take part to make the change to stop violence. It is important to break the chain of domestic violence so that we could look forward to a safe future for women.
Written by Veena Vibhushini Varun Prasath (Child & Adolescent Psychologist, Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, Colombo, Western, Sri Lanka)