Nobody saw it coming. Not even the victims. Even when an alarm bell sounded deep inside their minds, the bigger fear, the more imminent danger, ensured it was ignored or muffled. But the bogey would not go away. Shadowed by the fear of infection and illness, hidden in some dark corner of the mind, it emerged full blown to acquire the shape of a threat, more immediate, more frightening.
Domestic abuse has always been a phantom presence in homes across the world. Women and children, the most common victims, cloak it in denial, masking its visible bruises and tears as caused by accidents, either knowing there is no escape or telling themselves that it won’t happen again. A poster in a train compartment on the Tube says that through every second that takes to read it, a woman somewhere in London is being abused.
WHO estimated that of the 87,000 women who were intentionally killed in 2017 globally, more than half (50,000 or 58 percent) were killed by intimate partners or family members, meaning that 137 women across the world are killed by a member of their own family every day. More than a third (30,000) of the women intentionally killed in 2017 were killed by their current or former intimate partner.
Despite the awareness and warnings, little changes. Rather, the numbers are bound to be higher in 2020. A locked door need not hide abuse. But it does. And with the lockdown, sometimes even abusers do not realise they are making victims of those around them.Abuse has many forms. Abusers come in all shapes and ages, across genders.
"We are both senior citizens. I have had no help, of course, for the past four months, and I have been handling the cleaning and cooking all by myself." "My husband worries about his job, and he takes it out on me and the children. He just sits there finding fault with everything we do."
"My married son thinks we are an unnecessary burden. Though the house is mine, I am made to feel I am a squatter." "Working from home has doubled my load, I am expected to do the housework because I am around." And so it goes.
Abuse speaks in many voices: adding constant surveillance; strict rules for behaviour; and sometimes denial of access to food or medicine often substituting mental trauma for physical violence. Only the victim can end it. Or someone trusted. Is there a way out for the victim? Moving out is not easy, but helplines have opened up.
For one, @NCWIndia has launched a WhatsApp number (7217735372) offering assistance to women experiencing #DomesticViolence during #Covid19Lockdown. Reach out if you think someone needs it.
(The writer is author & consulting editor at Penguin Random House and can be contacted at email@example.com)