France is officially stepping in to help the victims of domestic violence, many of whom face an increased risk of danger during the era of social distancing.
The country first went on strict lockdown on March 17, Time notes, and stipulated that people were not allowed to leave their homes unless they were shopping for groceries, picking up medication or going to the doctor, exercising, or walking a pet. Such strict isolation can make already vulnerable people even more at-risk for abuse — especially given that many abusers often restrict their targets' connection to the world.
Since these lockdown rules were put in place, reported instances of domestic violence have spiked by at least 36 percent in Paris and 32 percent elsewhere in the country, and two women have been killed by their partners. (The country has previously acknowledged the scope of its domestic violence problem, particularly as it pertains to women, and has promised to work to eradicate it.)
As a result, Gender Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa announced on Monday (March 30) that the country would be providing hotel rooms for domestic violence victims looking to escape dangerous living situations. The government will also set up several help points around the country to connect with victims and help them determine what resources they may need. Given people can only run crucial errands, those help points will be located in grocery stores and pharmacies, so victims can seek help discreetly.
"My biggest concern is to multiply the points of contact with women," Schiappa said, per Reuters. "As it’s difficult for women to get out, we want to make sure that support systems can go to women." Time also notes that the French government plans to provide 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to groups that provide support to victims of domestic violence.
Other countries are noticing similar spikes in reported instances of domestic violence, according to The Guardian. In Spain, people can use the phrase "mask 19" in pharmacies to let someone know they need help if they do not feel safe calling or texting a helpline; India and Greece have also launched campaigns to remind victims and survivors they are not alone, though they may be physically distanced from other people right now.
On March 24, a coalition of senators including Kamala Harris (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) urged the Department of Health and Human Services to advocate for at-risk people throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The letter cited concerns for "the wellbeing of families who face an increased risk of domestic violence during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). We also ask that the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) ensure that the organizations that help victims and survivors of domestic violence have the flexibility, resources, and information needed to continue to provide these critical services during the pandemic."
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, intimate partner violence affects 12 million people in the United States each year. One in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been targeted by a partner in some way. Women aged 18-34 are at particular risk for intimate partner violence, but they're far from alone; in one survey, 80 percent of teenage respondents aged 13-18 said they knew someone in a controlling relationship of some kind.
"While everyone’s attention is on the epidemic, victims of domestic violence are very much being neglected,” anti-domestic violence activist Wan Fei said of the domestic violence spike in China. “They deserve more attention and help.”
If you or someone you know has been a victim of domestic violence, help is available. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or visit thehotline.org.
You can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing is the new normal, and we’re here to help.