Member States must tackle rise in domestic violence, says senior MEP

Evelyn Regner, chair of Parliament’s FEMM committee, has joined others in urging the EU and Member States to increase support for the growing number of domestic violence victims during the COVID-19 crisis.

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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

09 Apr 2020


Regner’s demand comes amid evidence that movement restrictions aimed to stop the spread of the Coronavirus may be making violence in homes more frequent, more severe and more dangerous.

Mounting data suggests that domestic abuse is “flourishing” in the conditions created by the pandemic.

Regner, a Socialist member, said women in violent relationships are stuck at home and exposed to their abuser for longer periods of time which makes it difficult for them to call helplines, as the perpetrator is always around.


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‘‘These days and the weeks ahead are especially dangerous for women. We are all facing major psychological challenges through isolation or quarantine, but women and sometimes children in unsafe homes are facing a particularly gruelling stress test,” she said.

“We must now pay particular attention to this issue and expand our actions to stop violence against women. We won’t leave Europe's women alone and I urge all Member States to tackle this problem with determination and to communicate actively where and how those affected can get help.”

“We are all facing major psychological challenges through isolation or quarantine, but women and sometimes children in unsafe homes are facing a particularly gruelling stress test” Evelyne Regner MEP

“This must also include simple ways to contact and to alert the police, such as text messages or online chats, and the use of code words with doctors or pharmacists. In addition, more places in violence protection facilities and women's shelters must be made available.”

She said the COVID-19 pandemic “starkly highlights” gender inequality “in all its shapes and forms.”

She points to OECD data showing that 70 percent of the health care workforce are women and a large part of unpaid care work is done by women, adding, “the upcoming economic crisis will hit women much harder.”

“It is our job to sustainably strengthen the physical and mental health of women and their economic independence, beyond the COVID-19 crisis.”

Refuge, a leading British charity focused on fighting domestic violence, said this week that calls to its helpline had risen by 25 percent since restrictions on people's movement began, and that hits on its website had increased by 150 percent.

Refuge said one of the biggest concerns is that victims may find themselves unable to report their ordeal.

Sandra Horley, Refuge's Chief Executive, said, “We know that ordinarily the window of opportunity for women with abusive partners to make a call and seek help is often very limited. Now, it is likely that window has become even smaller.”

Refuge is advising women to use the “Silent Solution” emergency call, which allows people to reach the police using touch phone without the need to speak.

“Ordinarily the window of opportunity for women with abusive partners to make a call and seek help is often very limited. Now, it is likely that window has become even smaller” Sandra Horley, Refuge Chief Executive

Both globally and in some EU countries, it has been reported that cases of domestic violence rose by a third in the week after lockdown was first put in place.

The United Nations has also appealed to governments in the EU and beyond to take action and “put women’s safety first” as lockdowns across the world could see women “trapped” with abusive partners.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video statement, said, “Over the past few weeks we have seen a horrifying global surge in domestic violence.”

In some countries, the number of women calling support services has doubled, healthcare providers and police are overwhelmed and understaffed, and local support groups are “paralysed” or short of funds, Guterres said.

Elsewhere, the Council of Europe’s group of experts on violence against women, known as GREVIO, this week published its first general report on the issue, saying “obstacles remain” in efforts to stop violence against women.

“Persistent problems” outlined in the report need to be addressed, it states. For example, specialist support services for victims of violence against women are still insufficient in number and their funding is “extremely volatile.”

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