The health risks of being in quarantine with an abuser

Photo: Tumisu, Pixabay / CC0

As the authorities take restrictive measures to try to get the coronavirus epidemic under control, NGOs are warning that behind the scenes of the evolving health crisis thousands of people could be experiencing their own private hell: the victims of domestic violence who are now trapped at home with an abuser 24 hours a day.

Photo: Tumisu,  Pixabay / CC0
Isolation, existential concerns and stress –factors that are present in our lives today as we struggle to come to terms with a situation that is completely new. Millions of people are cooped up in their homes under the government-imposed restrictions on movement and with growing health and existential concerns stress levels are going through the roof. Psychologists say that together with alcohol this creates a lethal combination that could lead to an escalation of domestic violence.

Zdena Prokopová from the NGO Rosa says many people may experience severe stress and lose control.

“The circumstances in which we find ourselves are extremely difficult even for families where domestic violence is not a problem. Some people find it hard to deal with the stress and restrictions, and this may lead to the emergence of domestic violence even in healthy relationships.”

There are no nationwide statistics as yet regarding an increase of domestic violence as a result of the restrictions on movement, but the Prague Intervention Centre says it has registered an increased number of calls for help from people trapped at home with an abusive partner.

Since the crisis started on average one abuser a day in Prague is barred from their home, while before it was 12 to 15 in an entire month.

Petra Vitoušová from the NGO White Circle of Safety is convinced that many of the abused are not calling for help, since in their mind, their problem is overshadowed by the enormity of the coronavirus crisis and its possible health and financial implications for the family. She says it is likely we won’t know the full extent of the abuse taking place until the pandemic subsides.

Petra Vitoušová,  photo: Jakub Říšský / Czech Radio
“I think many victims don’t even try to get help because they think that institutions are paralysed by the crisis, that problems like theirs are not dealt with in the present day. But that is simply not true. The police are still performing their duties. Even in a state of emergency the laws of this country are valid, the police are barring abusers from their homes and they are even prepared for cases where the abuser is in quarantine or COVID positive.”

Reports from other countries, such as China or France, suggest that these concerns are justified – domestic violence there is reported to have risen by 30 percent during lockdown.

Anyone in need of help can turn to the NGOs Bílý kruh bezpečí (White Circle of Safety), proFem and ROSA. They can also seek help via the mobile app Bright Sky.