Disclaimer – This article contains mentions of child sexual abuse, domestic violence, and homophobia. Readers are requested to proceed at their own discretion.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic does not need an introduction. It has reached almost every corner of the world and killed hundreds. The virus has infected more than 400,000 people. The death toll is nearly 20,000 and is constantly increasing.
In order to spread or at the very least slow down the spread of coronavirus, governments everywhere have imposed lockdowns. Schools and colleges have been shut down, transport services have been suspended. Countries like Italy and India are on nation-wide shutdowns.
Citizens everywhere are being made to stay at home, and to quarantine themselves with their families.
Everyone knows that the consequences of stepping outside can be disastrous, but no one is talking about those for whom even the consequences of social distancing are disastrous.
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HOW ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF CORONAVIRUS SOCIAL DISTANCING DISASTROUS?
A home is supposed to be a safe space full of love and affection. A family is supposed to be loving, accepting, and protective. They’re supposed to protect individuals from harm and comfort them if they’re hurt.
Unfortunately, this is not the situation for many people. Due to a multitude of reasons, families and homes are unsafe for people.
One of those reasons is child sexual abuse.
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
WHO defines CSA as –
“The involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society.”
CSA is an extremely taboo topic in the society. But however absent it may be from discussions, it is extremely prevalent in the society.
According to Darkness to Light, one in 10 children is sexually abused before they turn 18. Additionally, 90% of CSA survivors know their abuser, with 30% being abused by a family member.
It is also important to understand that many survivors of CSA do not speak up about their abuse. Thus, they continue to live with their abuser, if they belong to the immediate family. Schools, colleges, and offices can prove to be an escape from their abusers. If the abuse is still ongoing, it allows them to escape it, even if for a little while.
When survivors of CSA are forced to live at home, this makes them vulnerable to their abuser even more. In many cases, it provides the abuser with more opportunities to abuse the child. If the abuse has ended, it becomes extremely unhealthy for the survivors’ mental health. It can be even more disastrous for the survivors’ mental health if they are unable to speak to anyone about it.
CSA is not the only reason why these lockdowns can have an adverse impact on people.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Similar to CSA, lockdowns put these people in vulnerable situations. They steal from them their escape, their chance to not be around their abusers.
But, there is another problem with domestic violence. A lockdown also takes from them their ability to save themselves. When all resources are directed to dealing with a pandemic, resources are taken away from services that people in vulnerable situations might need.
BBC talked to Xiao Li, a Chinese activist living in Henan province. A distant relative of hers was assaulted by her ex-husband.
“Initially we found it impossible to get a permit to allow her to leave her village.”
Li added –
“Eventually after much persuasion, the police finally allowed an exit and entry permit to be granted so my brother could drive and meet her and the children.”
A Beijing-based women’s rights NGO reported a threefold increase in calls from victims of domestic violence after the quarantines were implemented.
“Diverting resources from critical services that women rely on, such as routine health checks or gender-based violence services, is something we are very concerned about,” says Maria Holtsberg. Holtsberg is a humanitarian and disaster risk advisor at UN Women Asia and Pacific.
Another factor making homes unsafe for people is widespread homophobia all over the world. This includes members of the queer community, across all identities.
For most queer folx, the family is the first origin of violence for them. This violence can be verbal, physical, and even sexual.
However, violence is often seen as the one thing that makes a home unsafe.
This is not the truth.
In various situations, homes are unsafe even in the absence of violence.
For the queer community, for instance, homes aren’t a free space. Queer individuals aren’t allowed to exist as they wish to, they aren’t allowed to exist as themselves. They have to constantly monitor themselves. They have to keep a check on their clothes, their walk, and their words. For many trans and non-binary folx, this means hiding their true identity. They have to adhere to their assigned-at-birth gender identity, which can be dysphoria-inducing and mentally taxing.
In that situation, schools and colleges prove to be spaces where queer individuals have the freedom to exist as themselves. They can be around people who not only accept their identities, but also respect and love them.
Inability to access these spaces for a prolonged period of time can have long-term effects on their mental health.
However, the solutions to these problems isn’t doing away with quarantines. At the time of global pandemics such as coronavirus, quarantines and lockdowns are vital. The solution is to solve these problems at a larger level. To provide individuals with avenues that help them leave abusive and unsafe environments, without negative consequences and a threat to their safety.
And even then, helplines should always be available. People who are stuck in these situations should have redressal options available to them at all times, pandemic or not.