In many countries, the number of domestic violence have skyrocketed as they impose lockdowns and work-from-home policies. According to The Washington Post, in Tunisia, five days after people were told to stay at home, the hotline for complaints on violence against women was flooded by callers up to five times more than usual.
In Hubei, China, at the end of January, a nonprofit anti-domestic violence organization said that reports of domestic violence that they received had doubled since the government impose the self-quarantine policy. The same thing happened in Spain domestic violence complaints through hotlines rose by 18 percent.
In Australia, according to the Domestic Violence NSW records, rising cases of violence for the past few weeks have led to an increase in demand for legal assistance by 40 percent. In the past five years, there has been an increase of up to 75 percent in Google searches to seek help for domestic violence survivors. The Australian government has announced that it would allocate A$150 million to support those who experiencing domestic violence through several organizations that focus on advocacy of domestic violence survivors, SBS News reported.
In Indonesia similar concerns and observations have been expressed by organizations like the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan). If you are or someone you know is going through violence in their household, there are several things you can do to stay safe. In a recent webinar held by Aliansi Satu Visi, titled “When Home is not a Safe Space”, Yayasan Pulih psychologist, Ika Putri Dewi said domestic violence survivors need to prepare a safety plan in case the situation gets out of hand.
Here are some of her suggestions to stay safe:
Find the safest room or area
In domestic violence situation, the victim need to be sure which room can be used to protect themselves from their abusers’ hurtful action, whether physically or psychologically. Beside a safe room, they also need to be sure of exits in the house that can be accessed and are safe if they are required at any time to leave the house to avoid further violence.
This safe room recommendation may not be easy to apply for those who live in a home that only has one room. This is why, Ika suggests, they must be prepared for the second step, which is finding a safe exit.
“Make sure we have access to exits. At any time, when we need to avoid violence, we should be able to get out. The safety plan is very personal, not all the points I mentioned can be applied. But the point is every victim/survivor needs to have an awareness that they are in danger and have a plan to save themselves from a violent situation,” she said.
Identify people who can be trusted
For some domestic violence victims, it’s very difficult to open up about their problem, especially when it means jeopardizing family name and reputation. But they need to convey the violence or threats that they experience, so if an unwanted event takes place, someone else would be alerted and could immediately help at that moment.
Trustworthy people can be member of their own family or the perpetrator’s family, or someone in the neighborhood.
“It can also be their close friends, close family friends, anyone they identify as people who care enough for them. That’s what they should consider in the process of rescuing themselves. The principle is to look for the most likely social support,” Ika said.
You can tell these people that you trust the possibility that you may be targeted in violence, and ask for them to check on you or your children from time to time.
Have a list of hotlines of organizations that provide services to domestic violence survivors handy
If talking to family members or close friends is still hard, because you fear being judged, file a complaint to organizations that focus on domestic violence issues like Komnas Perempuan, LBH Apik, the Integrated Service Center for the Empowerment of Women and Children (P2TP2A), or Yayasan Pulih.
Be open in sharing how the violence you’re experiencing is progressing, so that the parties you ask help from can be alerted and can offer you proper help.
Preparing yourself and exit plan
Anyone who experiences domestic violence should do what pregnant women do ahead of the labor: prepare a bag full of all the necessary things that you can just grab for quick exit. Pack important documents, valuable items, several clothes, medicines, and during pandemic time, self-protection gear such as mask, gloves and hand sanitizers.
If getting out of the house is a must, plan where to seek temporary shelter, whether bunking with a family, friend or neighbor, or in a hotel. Make sure you know ahead of time what mode of transport you will take to rescue yourself.
If you are not the one experiencing domestic violence but someone you know is, there are some things you need to pay attention to in assuring the safety of that person. Keep a safe distance while still in the pandemic period, but keep in contact with the survivor to ask whether they are fine. If there is a change in tone on the phone or if you haven’t heard from them for days, be prepared to find out the condition of the survivor. If necessary, report to authorities in the neighborhood about their situation, so that you would have another helping hand for the survivor.
You can also help by identifying the survivor’s needs. If physical violence is involved, medical help is the first thing the survivor needs. Violence in general usually leaves trauma for the survivor, so it makes psychological and professional help no less important to seek.
In cases where the survivor has not received any professional help, you as a friend or family can help the survivor by responding to their story with empathy. Then, if the survivor wants it, offer to help them getting legal assistance, though the process could take longer in the time of pandemic. Existing pieces of evidence, such as official letters from the healthcare center or hospital about injuries suffered from physical violence, as well as its pictures must be recorded and kept for the legal process later.
If you or someone you know need help to get out of domestic or online violence, contact Komnas Perempuan at 021-3903963 or [email protected]); or Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Asosiasi Perempuan Indonesia untuk Keadilan (LBH APIK at 021-87797289, WA: 0813-8882-2669, and [email protected]). Click the complete list of all service institutions/organizations here.