Domestic abuse victims urged to seek help during coronavirus lockdown

Domestic abuse victims urged to seek help during coronavirus lockdown

PHILIPSBURG--The community is encouraged to reach out for help in case of domestic abuse or mistreatment during the lockdown.

Many countries have restricted the movement of persons between external and internal borders as the world is currently facing a health pandemic resulting from the vicious spread and effects of the coronavirus COVID-19. St. Maarten is no exception.

In an effort to prevent, mitigate and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic authorities took some hard decisions to put the country in a partial lockdown, said the Department of Communications DComm in a press release on Monday.

Closing of schools and non-essential businesses, companies with the capacity for their employees to work remotely doing so, socio-cultural activities cancelled or postponed, churches closed, places of entertainment closed, and the list can go on – all in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.

“People are asked to refrain from our cultural norms of togetherness and greetings by way of [hugging and/or kissing – Ed.], and [to practise] social distancing. This period of isolation and social distance may become the playground for abusers to exert enormous amounts of power and control over survivors and victims who may find themselves trapped in the same environment with the abuser,” said the release.

Although many may embrace and welcome the opportunity to be at home to spend time doing things they could not do on a regular basis, for the survivor or victim of abuse it may be their worst nightmare. They may be forced to stay in the confines of their home with an abusive parent, spouse/partner or caretaker.

Types of abuse and victims may differ. It may be a case of a parent or a family member abusing a child; a caregiver an elderly or disabled person; a partner abusing their partner; etc. Abuse may also take different forms – it can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial or even spiritual.

What many may not be aware of is that being away from home, be it at their place of work, school, elderly day-care activity centre and the like, gives the victim an escape. It offers the opportunity for others to pick up and recognise that something is definitely wrong, and victims can interact with others, get help or even build their resolve to return to their abusive home environment until they can find a way out. With the isolation and social distancing this is not possible.

Research shows that violence increases during a crisis or disaster. Countries grappling with the onslaught of this virus have reported a sharp increase in intimate-partner violence cases since the lockdown.

“It is important as a community that we are aware of this startling reality and keep our eyes, ears and hearts open. Though we have to continue to practise social distancing and that we must do so to safeguard ourselves and the community, we can still do our part,” said the release.

“We need to report cases of abuse and mistreatment. In essence, if you see something you say something. You feel that something may be wrong, say something.”

The public may contact the following emergency numbers anonymously: for children, the Court of Guardianship via 918 or 721-520-1473 available 24 hours, seven days a week); for families, the Women’s Desk 721-520-6291 between 8:00am to 5:00pm; for domestic violence or intimate partner violence, call Police 911 or the Women’s Desk 721-520-6291, between 8:00am to 5:00pm, or Safe Haven 9333 or 526-8663 available 24-hours, seven days a week.

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