Locked Up During Lockdown: Domestic Abuse Cases Spike

Image retrieved from Kafa

Some numbers everyone should know:

  • Internal Security Forces: 1745
  • KAFA: 03 018 019
  • Abaad: 81 788 178

On April 17, LBCI reported that a man in Bekaa had shot his mother, Lina, and his sister, Marwa. Both entered Chtoura Hospital in severely critical conditions.

On April 3, an Annahar article stated that Zeinab, mother of 3 boys, got stabbed 6 times by her husband in Bar Elias. The two of them already had a history of problems and, in a fit of rage, the husband sought to hurt his wife.

On April 7, LBCI reported that a man had beaten up his 5-year-old daughter, Maha, to death. 

Unfortunately, these instances are but a few of the many cases of abuse that have risen in the past few months. A March report released by KAFA shows that despite the number of calls increasing, the numbers still do not reflect the actual intensity of the situation. The report explains that given the strict lockdown regulations, abusers are always at home, making the process of contacting authorities or NGOs much harder for the abused. Fear deters the women from reaching out. The situation is just the same for Syrian refugees, unfortunately. Refugees are not allowed to leave their camps for whatever reasons, and now, amidst the fear of the virus, the fear and hesitation of contacting anyone for help has also seen an increase. Moreover, the report claims that during the pandemic, the cycle of violence has expanded to include uncles, fathers, and brothers, as well as husbands. 

Internal Security Forces have reported that their hotline for domestic violence (1745) received a 100% increase in phone calls this March compared to March 2019. Abaad director, Ms. Ghida Anani, stated, “women have also been telling us they are struggling with crises of mental health issues or expressing suicidal thoughts.” 

The pandemic has forced the majority of Lebanese household members to remain in their confined homes for their safety and health, as well as that of those around them. While it is very important to maintain social distancing, what if someone’s health is compromised because they stayed at home? What if some people have a bigger threat than the virus? What if that threat happens to be living with them, supposedly being their most intimate partner or parent or child? 

For households that are more prone to domestic violence, the lockdown has proven to be a catalyst and a facilitator for the issue. Lebanon is one example, but the global trend shows an increase in the number of reported abuse cases. Los Angeles has seen much fewer cases, which, ironically, has concerned the police department rather than relieved them, because the department has reasons to believe that it’s because victims are hesitant and scared to take action. 

Why the sudden surge in domestic abuse? There are multiple factors that contribute to the issue, including financial hardships, inappropriate coping with anger or stress, cultural attitudes and beliefs, and childhood experiences. In Lebanon, the pandemic had compounded on the already difficult and stressful economic crisis. With nowhere to go, men’s outlets have, sadly, been the women in their lives. Does this excuse the ongoing gender-based violence? Definitely not, and it never will. The pandemic did not cause domestic violence, but it did amplify it.

It is important to note that this is a trying time for the vast majority, if not all, of us. Abaad said it best, “If you’re quarantined in a safe home, don’t call it a prison, because there are women who have been held captive with their prisoners and are being subjected to the ugliest kind of violence.” The least we can do is share the hotline numbers listed above and stay beside each other in times when we need each other the most.

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