The Impact of COVID-19 on Gender-Based Violence

Recently, new research is being published which outlines the various ways in which inequalities that were already present in society are being reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, gender-based inequality which can lead to gender-based violence has been exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. This article will discuss the extent of the problem in the UK, namely how much the recurrence of gender-based violence has increased over the lockdown period from March 2020 to June 2020. Moreover, the article will touch on the intersection of inequalities that leave certain groups of women more at risk than others. It is important to note, however, that this is not to say that gender-based violence is a problem that only women face. However, for the sake of space, this article will focus primarily on violence against women. 

Rise in Occurrence

According to the BBC, the number of calls to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline jumped by as much as 49% in the first three weeks of lockdown. However, the true scale of this issue is unlikely to be observed in these statistics as it is a very contemporary issue (in terms of the lockdown) and is also of a secretive nature. The rise in the prevalence of gender-based violence could be due to a number of factors, the most obvious being that victims of domestic abuse were locked in their houses with their abusers, thus unable to escape the abuse. 

Intersections of Inequality 

It is important to note that the extent to which one is more likely to experience domestic abuse is also very much influenced by social factors that intersect with gender inequality. For example, Safelives show that younger individuals are more likely to be victims of interpersonal violence, meanwhile older women are more likely to be in interpersonally violent and neglectful situations. During the Covid-19 pandemic, therefore, these women were more susceptible to domestic abuse which was facilitated by their social isolation. 

Moreover, a lower socioeconomic status has been documented as a primary source of frustration in families, and one which is directly correlated to higher levels of domestic violence. This is often due to the financial dependence that some women experience and which leaves them with little to no possibility to leave the household, a disadvantage that was intensified by the doubling of the redundancy rate. Disability is also associated with a higher risk of being a victim of gender-based violence due to the power dynamics between a caregiver and a disabled person; those who are physically impaired are therefore at a higher risk as well. Women from non-white backgrounds are also more likely to face abuse, which when combined with their historically higher presence in low-income households, leads to an even higher risk of facing abuse. This disadvantage was made worse by the lockdown as they were less able to reach out for help due to their abuser being around all the time. Finally, women who are non-heterosexual or who are in non-heterosexual relationships are also likely to face abuse. However, they are often unlikely to feel like they are able to report it due to the preconceptions that women are too “kind” or too “caring” to be abusive. Certainly, the Covid-19 pandemic and the socio-economic pressures that it has prompted has resulted in a higher prevalence of domestic abuse. However, women who fall into one or more of the categories outlined above are already more susceptible to violence in the household and are likely, therefore, to have been disproportionately affected by domestic abuse during lockdown.

With this in mind, the announcement on 31st October by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson that England will be going back into some form of lockdown is more worrying than ever in regard to the impact that this may have on victims of domestic violence. And so, if you experience or happen to overhear what seems like domestic abuse over the course of the month of November, contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline for help with this matter

Coralie Gauvin-Belair 

Coralie is a second year student of International Development at King’s College London. She is an editor for the Global Health Policy Center and currently runs a content creation business. 

The featured (top) image is by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.

Bibliography

Amnesty International. 2008. Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada. Canadian Women’s Studies 26.3/4 

Crenshaw, Kimberlé. 2006. Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color.  An Introduction to Women’s Studies: Gender in a Transnational World. Ed. Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan. New York: McGraw-Hill. 

Curry, Mary; Hassouneh-Phillips, Dena; and Johnston-Silverberg. Anne. 2001. Abuse of Women with Disabilities: An Ecological Model and Review. Violence Against Women 7.1 

Fahmy, E., Williamson, E., and Pantazis, C. 2016. Evidence and policy review: Domestic violence and poverty. Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Rosenberg, Lisa and Ann Duffy. 2010. Violence Against Women. Feminist Issues: Race, Class, and Sexuality. Fifth Edition. Ed. Nancy Mandell. Toronto: Pearson Canada. 

Sharma, A. and Borah, S. 2020. Covid-19 and Domestic Violence: an Indirect Path to Social and Economic Crisis. Journal of Family Violence.

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