COVID-19 has disrupted lives. Recent statistics have shown a significant rise in domestic violence worldwide since the outbreak of COVID-19. Domestic violence is a symptom of many underlying issues. The rise in domestic violence during COVID-19 could be due to various factors.
Humans do not deal well with uncertainty. Uncertainties breed anxieties. COVID-19 carries many unknowns resulting in increased anxieties and perceived loss of control over one’s life. Domestic violence, which has been linked to power and control, could be a way to regain some sense of control over one’s life during this period of great uncertainty.
COVID-19 threatens lives and livelihoods of many. Beyond external pressures, the family can be a source of stress. Family members who work from home experience increased expectations to juggle between work tasks and family tasks (e.g. personal work versus supporting child’s homework). There are also expectations to cope as a family and manage the different stress responses of every family member. Particularly, a caregiver or provider in the family may experience high stress created by the many expectations during this period.
The containment measures arising from COVID-19 leave families in a confined home environment away from others. This presents opportunities for more triggers of family conflict. Family members may be less able to de-escalate tensions and move away by going to work or hanging out with friends due to social distancing measures. Perpetrators of domestic violence may also be more likely to use violence as they perceive their acts may not be noticed.
COVID-19 has increased pressures on the family unit and reduced the ability of affected family members to accommodate and tolerate differences. Together, these factors significantly increases the likelihood of conflicts that may lead to domestic violence. Such violence can take many forms, ranging from increased emotional stonewalling, verbal degradation, to physical abuse.
Speak to a trusted family member or friend. Seek help from a social service agency. In an emergency, contact the police. Know that you are not alone and there is help available.
As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, incidents of domestic violence could continue to increase. However, we can prevent domestic violence by:
Acknowledging that things are not the same
Many people are struggling to cope with the negative impact of COVID-19. Expecting everyone to cope effectively with no allowance for differences is unrealistic. Being able to let go of the expectations you hold during non-crisis times can bring about some relief from stress and conflict for you and your family members.
Space allows one to have the bandwidth to manage challenging behaviours and difficult emotions. In spite of circuit breaker measures, one can still step away from a high-tension situation by retreating to another room or taking a quick walk around the neighbourhood. Creating space allows both parties to calm down from heightened emotions and not let a bad situation escalate further.
Knowing help is available
If you find yourself worried or fearful for your safety or that of family members, reach out for support early. Speak to a trusted family member or friend. Seek help from a social service agency. In an emergency, contact the police. Know that you are not alone and there is help available. If you find yourself increasingly getting irritable with your family members and at risk of engaging in violent behaviour, you can take steps to protect yourself from committing a crime and endangering the wellbeing of your loved ones. You deserve help and support during this stressful period. You can similarly reach out to friends and social services to seek help before it is too late.
As a community, look out for one another. If you have concerns, a simple check-in with your neighbours or friends could prevent domestic violence and get them the help they need.
- Police: 999
- National CARE Hotline: 1800-202-6868
- ComCare hotline: 1800-222-0000
- Child Protective Service Helpline: 1800-777 0000
- PAVE Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection Specialist Centre: 6555-0390
- Care Corner Project StART: 6476-1482
- TRANS SAFE Centre: 6449-9088
- Big Love Child Protection Specialist Centre: 6445-0400
- HEART @ Fei Yue Child Protection Specialist Centre: 6819-9170
- Viriya Therapy Centre Hotline: 6256 1311
The contributor is a Family Therapist and Lead Social Worker at Viriya Community Services.