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How Covid 19 pandemic has resulted in an increase in sexual violence

Nov 12,2021

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced Covid-19 as a global pandemic. Important measures were taken and continuous efforts were being made to control the widespread of the epidemic. Worldwide lockdowns were considered crucial to managing the outbreak of the disease. Since the spread of the novel coronavirus, there have been several changes that people have experienced. 

One of the most common measures apart from social distancing, hand-sanitizing, and wearing of masks, was the complete shutdown of the countries. Citizens were not allowed to leave their homes unless necessary. The lockdown and stay-at-home practices certainly helped to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The lives of the people everywhere changed entirely. Later, on March 27, 2020, WHO warned about the increasing threat of domestic violence against people. The organization alerted the states to make relevant efforts to control the Covid-19 widespread. However, they must not ignore the possible threat of violence against different people. 

The pandemic conditions impact the whole world in numerous ways. Some of them are: 

  • Economies get crushed
  • People suffer from hunger and poverty 
  • Rise in the cases of unemployment and underemployment
  • Social isolation 
  • Disturbed mental health

While lockdown was an essential step to stop the novel coronavirus from spreading, for some people it turned into a curse and their homes seemed to them a place of fear. Researches from the pandemics in history have found that the risks of violence among individuals increase at the time of pandemic due to a rise in poverty, mental stress, unemployment, loneliness, anxiety, economic insecurity, and related factors.

According to a survey conducted in April 2020, out of 4600 Canadians, 10% women and 6% men have expressed their concern about violence in their homes since the beginning of the epidemic. The reason for the same during an ongoing epidemic situation is the helplessness among the people. People feel lonely and socially isolated. According to another research wherein, the effect of natural disasters was examined on Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), participants report physical violence, sexual force, and destruction of property. 

The cases of sexual and domestic violence have always been a concern all across. As per a report by WHO, published on March 09, 2021, 1 out of 3 women have experienced sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner or a non-partner. "Violence against women is endemic in every country and culture, causing harm to millions of women and their families, and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. The threat of sexual violence outside the domestic sphere decreased as an effect of lockdown. However, the people for whom their homes had always been nightmares, the threats increased. 

As per the RAINN's stats, around 48% of people are assaulted while asleep, 29% while traveling, 12% while working, 7% in school and 5% while being engaged in an unknown task. When the complete lockdown was announced all across the world, the threat to sexual violence in these scenarios and places decreased due to a strict limitation in mobility and social interaction. However, the violence inside the homes increased. 

Despite the increment in the threat of violence in the domestic sphere throughout the pandemic, the stats showed a decrease in the numbers. One of the major reasons for the decline in the figures has been the lockdown. The accused were limited to their homes which exposed them to the accuser and thus decreased their chances of formally reporting the crime. 

Moreover, throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the prime motive of the countries and the governments was to prevent the widespread of the virus. While the frontline healthcare workers and police were overburdened with work, courts and helplines were working fewer hours. This led to a delay in reporting the cases and their processing leading to a decrease in the formal figures of the reports. 

The Covid-19 pandemic is a threat to human lives; consequently, it is indispensable for each one of us to do our little bit to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Nevertheless, for some people, the preventive measures have themselves become menacing. If you or anyone you know is going through any kind of sexual violence or has gone through it at any point in their lifetime, make sure to report it. 

Here are several steps one can take after going through an incident of sexual assault: 

  • Talk about the incident to someone you know and trust 
  • Get appropriate medical help 
  • Seek assistance for mental help 
  • Reach out to designated helplines and organizations 
  • Do not isolate yourself 
  • Connect with your family and friends 

Various helplines and organizations are working actively to safeguard the interests of all human beings against sexual violence. It's essential to report your case while ensuring your safety. Keep in mind what happened to you is crucial; not only for you but for people around you as well. Don't stay shut but speak up!