A Silent Pandemic at Home

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This is the hotline any victim can use to reach out for help.

Lucia Gaviria, Discoverer Staff Writer

At night, when I look in a mirror, all I can see are the bruises that extend from my forehead to my legs, and I can’t help but wonder: when will COVID-19 be over?

This is a description of what women across Colombia are currently facing. During these past few months, governments have decided to use a mandatory quarantine to protect people from COVID-19. Governments assume that staying at home would grant safety. However, for domestic violence victims, the possibility to stay safe at home includes being imprisoned with their aggressor.

In Colombia, the hotline for domestic abuse has been ringing off the hook, with approximately 91% more calls than at the same time last year. Unfortunately, this is not only a problem for developing countries, because once a country is put on mandatory lockdown, domestic abuse statistics skyrocket.

The world is facing a worldwide pandemic on the streets; however, there is also a pandemic going on within homes. This silent pandemic has been going on way longer, and some attention needs to be drawn to its victims.

Before the preventive quarantine was imposed in Colombia, the authorities feared there would be a rise of domestic abuse cases. Unfortunately, their fears were justified.

According to the Colombian Women’s Observatory, during the last ten days of March (the first month of quarantine), the calls to the emergency hotline for abuse were about 101 per day. Entities have also noticed that it mainly raises during the weekends. On the last Friday of March, the number of calls rose about 250% compared to 2019.

If we put this into perspective, it would be as if the entire class of 2021 was all a victim of domestic abuse on just one day. Quarantine is terrible on its own, but being emotionally and physically tormented makes it unbearable. 

Taking care of ourselves by social distancing is a domestic abuse victim’s worst nightmare; without an escape, they feel like they are trapped at home. The cause of the increase is quarantine, but what factors of isolation cause this behavior?

There is a strong correlation between abuse and economic stress. Colombia sees tons of layoffs, adding that to the tension generated by caring for children from home. You are expected to teach this child from home, never mind figuring out how to feed them. 

According to research posted on the American Psychological Association (APA), 53 rats were analyzed to examine the relationship between aggression and stress. Scientists found that when rats were put through a stressful situation, their levels of corticosterone went up, and so did their aggression levels against the other rats. 

The same situation that happened in this experiment is the way some domestic abusers are reacting with COVID. When people are abusers, they do not have the right tools to cope with this stress. Instead, they take it out on the person that they decided they want to control; in order words, their abuse victims. 

Quarantine brings many detonating factors to humans’ emotions. Some find coping in releasing those emotions through violence. Quarantine is challenging for all of us to adjust to. Regardless, violence against loved ones is not the way.

Alcohol sales have skyrocketed with quarantine, and the behavior that alcohol causes on some people can be unpredictable; for some, it causes violence.

In Colombia during May, it is estimated that six out of ten orders are delivered, including alcohol.

People consume alcohol when they are in situations of stress, anxiety, or fear. All emotions that quarantine brings out in people. However, the behavior that alcohol brings out in people is unpredictable.

The factors that trigger most abusers are incremented during the COVID lockdown; however, so should the protection for their victims.

Some may say that violence has incremented in general, and this is a concern as well. Nevertheless, currently, the entire country is forced to stay home, elevating levels of stress, and creating a perfect storm. If the abuser has the opportunity to have the person abusing them all the time. Cohabiting with someone brings tensions anyhow, sum to that an intimate relationship with an abuser.

You would think that the more phone calls there are, the worse the problem is getting. However, an increase in phone calls means women are reaching out for help. This is something Colombia has been doing a great job on. Other countries such as Canada have noticed the number of phone calls decrease during the mandatory lockdown, but domestic abuse victims are still making headlines, meaning the problem is still present, yet not being reported.

We are facing an epidemic during a pandemic, and one of them can only get worse by staying home. A particular aspect of a pandemic is that it does not discriminate by skin color, social class, or even religion. It could be your neighbor, and you would be utterly oblivious. Instead of protecting themselves from the pandemic, they are being forced to stay at home with their abusive partner.