Crisis Within a Crisis
It has been a long day at work and now all you want to do is rest for the remainder of the day. What is the first thing that comes to your mind? Home, right?
Home, the safe haven is the one place where you can leave all the worries behind and relax. But is it the same for all?
Unfortunately, the answer is no.
According to the United Nations, domestic violence is defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. In a country like India where goddesses are worshiped so diligently, the women of the house are abused without a second thought.
The practice of domestic violence in India has seen a massive spike, especially in times like these when we are confined to our homes. With the increased male presence at homes and the apparent need to establish male dominance in the house to justify the patriarchal male ego, domestic violence has taken its toll on women during the lockdown.
When there is no option of stepping out, it acts as an additional barrier for these victims to seek help. Domestic violence contributes to nearly one third of total cases reported in India. While the number of cases that were reported during the lockdown saw a decline, the fact that this number increased multifold once the lockdown was lifted proves the fact that domestic violence saw a surge during the lockdown phase.
According to The Hindu, in 2020, between March 25 and May 31, 1,477 complaints of domestic violence were made by women. This 68-day period recorded more complaints than those received between March and May in the previous 10 years.
Imagine living under the same roof as one’s abuser, depending on them for basic needs due to financial dependency of the victim and no means to contact any external parties due to immobility caused by the pandemic when one needs help the most. While being locked up in the house is one of the major reasons for the increased cases, another major reason for this increase is the increased control of the abuser due to this increased presence. This can include barriers for the victim to report the case as the abuser might restrict the communication mediums for the victim, including their phones and even the internet connection.
A report suggests that approximately 86% of these victims do not seek help when they face domestic violence due to these reasons in addition to the prevailing reasons for unreported domestic violence cases in India.
This has horrifically affected the mental health of not just these victims but other family members including the children of the house as well, scarring them for life. Women have to suffer the abuse more often and the children become a witness to it. According to a report, the chances of children becoming a victim of domestic violence have also increased, making the whole situation worse for both the mother and the children.
Domestic violence is a grave problem that needs to be addressed at the earliest. It is unacceptable and the risks of violence that the women and their children face during this crisis cannot be overlooked.
When we are able to forestall this violence and help these victims to overcome their past experiences, we work towards safeguarding their basic human rights and advance in our efforts to promote physical and emotional wellness for women.
So now the question is, what can be done to bring about this change?
Firstly, the victims should try to seek help from the right authorities, including the police, lawyers, social activists etc. as soon as possible. Many governmental and private organisations are working towards solving the problem and can be approached through toll free numbers which are available round the clock. In response to the recent spike in the frequency and intensity of domestic violence complaints, the National Commission for Women has launched a special WhatsApp helpline number: +91 7217735372, which will act as an exclusive helpline for domestic violence complaints during the period of lockdown. The victims can try to seek help through these alternatives.
However, if the authorities cannot be contacted, the victim can reach out to any person that can be trusted and must insist on bringing the issue to light as soon as possible. On one’s individual part, if one observes a case of domestic violence, the case should immediately be reported, as it may not be possible for the victim to directly report the incident due to the increased control of the abuser in this period.
Everyone has a role to play to be able to solve this grave problem and it is high time we start taking responsibility.