Domestic violence is considered a serious social and public health problem, being understood by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2020) as any act that causes physical, psychological, sexual, social and economic harm, which may include threats, coercion, manipulation or arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

This type of crime is often targeted at partners, but can be committed against other family members or those being cared for. It is most commonly carried out by men against women.

In Europe an alarming 1 in 4 women suffer physical and/or sexual violence by a partner (WHO, 2020).

In the UK alone, it is possible to identify 2.1 million people aged between 16 and 59 who experienced domestic abuse between March 2018 and March 2019 (1.4 million women and 0.7 million men). In the same period, 2.9% of these people had been victims of sexual assault (including attempts), according to the latest Crime Statistics in England and Wales, CSEW, Dec/2019. It can be seen that the main victims are female – which is why there are a greater number of services and campaigns aimed at this type of public. However an increasing number of men are coming forward to report being regularly subjected to this kind of assault.

Domestic violence during the pandemic

In pandemic situations, as lockdown was implemented, it is common for the risk of intimate partner violence to increase as the victim ends up spending more time in contact with the abuser. Statistics (WHO 2020) have shown worldwide increases in cases of domestic violence since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Initiatives to minimize or prevent violence

There are several possible ways to assist victims of domestic violence:

  • Keeping in touch with the victim, calling or texting to see how things are going, taking care to ensure the safety of both;
  • Agree a safety plan with the victim in case of urgent assistance. You can create a communication code in case they need you to call the police;
  • Make your residence available in case they need to leave the house immediately for safety reasons.

One must be very careful not to expose the victim to further danger by acting hastily without their consent unless there is a clear and serious threat to their wellbeing.

The victim should be encouraged to create a support network (neighbors, friends or family members and specialized services), to have contact numbers for emergency situations (hotline support, police, etc.), as well as keep the mobile phone charged and leave documents for themselves and their children, cards, money, certificates, among others, always in sight.

How Psychology can help

It is extremely important that the victim also seeks psychological support in order to better understand the situation in which they find themselves and learn to defend themselves, placing limits on the situations that arise. It is common for the victim to have feelings of guilt, fear and failure – feelings that can often be paralyzing and that are closely related to the abuser’s manipulative behavior. Psychological support, in turn, will have as its main objective to work on the victim’s self-esteem so that they feel confident again and worthy of a dignified life, so that they can make decisions and have more assertive attitudes.

Below are some important services for immediate help in case of domestic violence.

For Emergency Cases – Dial 999. If you are unable to speak when on a 999 call when using your mobile, dial 55 when prompted and the call will be transferred to police.

To Record Occurrences – Dial 101 (Non-emergency Police line).

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