Cyprus Mail

Coronavirus: Domestic abuse cases almost double during isolation

Reports of domestic violence have almost doubled during the coronavirus pandemic due to confinement to homes, the association for the prevention and handling of violence in the family (Spavo) has said. There have been more than ten reported cases per day since the first confirmed Covid-19 cases on the island, it said.

According to a report by Spavo on Thursday, between March 9, when the first coronavirus cases were reported, and March 31, the 1440 domestic violence helpline received 2,075 calls.

Operators were able to respond to only 921 of the calls, while the remaining 1,154 went unanswered as all the lines were busy.

A source at Spavo told the Cyprus Mail that around five operators are currently working at the national helpline, as some are on special leave due to the coronavirus.

“It is a policy of our service not to call back, so as not to put callers in a dangerous position,” the source said.

In 23 days, there were 15 requests for emergency housing in shelters, 12 requests for counselling and 230 reports of domestic violence, which averages at around ten reports per day, bringing the increase to 47 per cent compared to the months prior to the pandemic outbreak.

The new lifestyle of self-isolation aims to protect citizens’ health but enables abusers to carry out different forms of physical and psychological abuse, said the non-governmental organisation.

Abusers now withhold personal hygiene products from their victims or physically harm them if they do not abide by strict safety measures they impose on them. Abusers also misinform victims about the dangers regarding the virus to scare them into staying at home more.

Children are also used as a form of blackmail as abusers threaten to put them as well as their mothers in situations where they may be exposed to the virus.

Spavo also reported cases of women being prevented from visiting a health professional or getting help when they show symptoms.

The public is responsible to report any suspicious vases of domestic violence to the police or at the helpline 1440.

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