Confinement has led to a threefold increase in calls on domestic violence chat lines, but it has also helped to bring peace to some households, according to a new study by Brussels Prevention and Security (BPS).
The report recalls that while domestic violence, a process of domination that manifests itself in a cyclic and gradual manner, was not created by the lockdown sparked by the novel Coronavirus, the confinement led to increased incidents of violence and made things more difficult for the victims.
Applications for shelter have increased sharply, going up by 253% in April. With the accommodation supply already saturated in normal times in the Brussels Region, and the lockdown making it harder to take in victims, the Francophone and Dutch-speaking communities provided shelter in hotels for victims.
The reduced number of battery charges and domestic violence complaints during the lockdown, compared to the average for the preceding years (2018-2019), needs to take into consideration encoding time and increased difficulty in reaching police stations.
Interventions needed for family disputes – without any physical violence – increased by 28% between early March and mid-May. These could be simple disputes within a couple but some could also be linked to domestic violence situations.
BPS feels the large number of calls on chat lines needs to be relativized since they also include calls from worried relatives of victims and people offering their services, given the added focus on the problem ever since the shutdown began.
The Praxis non-profit association, which sponsored the authors, attributes the lessening of tension noted in some domestic-violence situations to less alcohol being consumed outside the home, fewer people going out, less jealousy, and increased satisfaction by the authors with the results of their partner-control research.
According to the Brussels Secretary of State for Equal Opportunities, Nawal Ben Hamou, this is the first time an analysis has been done that takes into consideration police data, applications for shelter, and chat and support lines, with the support of the associative sector,” she said.
“This is a real social plague with non-negligible effects on all members of the family,” commented Brussels Prime Minister Rudi Vervoort. “both on the victim, and on relatives who witness it, and particularly children. This problem requires a structural approach.”