Experts fear that violence against women and children could be on the increase, as lockdown conditions created a dangerous cocktail of risk factors for those cohabiting with violent people.
The Department of Social Development’s domestic violence hotline received over 2,000 calls in a single week, according to recent reports.
This “alarming” number was indicative of a spike in domestic violence, according to NGO Sonke Gender Justice. The advocacy group’s senior strategic advisor Bafana Khumalo said the group was concerned that women and children living with violent adults were experiencing increased vulnerability to threats of violence and left with fewer options to avoid them.
“We predicted this and what we have been saying is in the implementation of regulations for Covid-19 there was not enough done to prevent or deal with the expected increase in violence in the home, especially against women and children. [The Teddy Bear Clinic] has also been experiencing more cases of children being abused.”
He said government should have made more shelters available for vulnerable women and children, and more mechanisms to help those who were stuck in dangerous domestic situations worsened by the imposed restrictions of the lockdown.
According to the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), the latest crimes statistics showing a dramatic drop in overall violent crimes, including rape and domestic violence, was an unlikely representation of the true reality faced by millions of South Africans under the lockdown.
ISS crime researcher Dr Johan Burger suspected that, for instance with rape and domestic violence, it was even more difficult than usual for victims to report these cases because of the forced proximity to the perpetrators, as well as the threat of being arrested on the way to a police station to seek help.
“Under the current circumstances it may be difficult for many of these cases to be reported and after properly analysing the situation later on it is possible that these numbers will change dramatically. We expected a completely different trend because of this kind of lockdown for a protracted period, people’s frustrations were likely to flare and even where there is no history of this kind of violence people may have become more violent. This is especially so in areas where people live in smaller spaces closer together.”
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