Many people may experience frustration, depression, and anxiety as the national lockdown in response to the rapid spread of the coronavirus settles into communities.
But these feelings my not be as easy for some to suppress as others, so the Covid-19 pandemic could result in an increase of domestic violence, says clinical psychologist Carin-Lee Masters.
Last Friday March 27 the country experienced the first day of the national 21-day lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday March 23. He said that due to the increase of so many cases in the country and globally this measure would have to be implemented to curb Covid-19. The lockdown will last until midnight Thursday April 16.
“This is extremely dangerous for a population like ours, with a large number of people with suppressed immunity because of HIV and TB, and high levels of poverty and malnutrition. This is a decisive measure to save millions of South Africans from infection and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” Mr Ramaphosa said.
The Covid-19 lockdown poses a great risk to the Cape Flats domestic violence rate, according to Manenberg police’s spokesman, Captain Ian Bennett, and so does the prohibiting of the sale of alcohol as many people rely on it to ‘relax’ but also alcohol contributes to most domestic violence cases, he said.
Captain Bennett said for a breadwinner who is used to going out of his home to work every day, being in lockdown for 21 days could be frustrating and this was the danger to the family, especially the children.
“Families are going to be in each other’s space for a long period of time with as many as 10 to 15 people in a house, if not more. The abuser usually also demands money from the wife towards the end of the month or from the children which is money that he or she did not work for. The money is used to feed the drug or alcohol habit. Because of the lockdown and people being unable to work and earn money, the victim has to hold onto their money tightly,” said Captain Bennett.
He said that usually the victim will just hand over the money as they are scared of assault but not knowing when the next pay day will be, they don’t have a choice but to refuse.
“Usually after the abuse occurs the perpetrator will go outside or go for a drive and cool down but now he will remain in the house because of the lockdown, which leads to more frustration and more abuse. During this time sexual violence could also escalate as young children and older people will be home at the same time all the time but we will only hear about it after the lockdown and especially if the perpetrator is the breadwinner it will be kept quiet,” he said.
On the flip side, the lockdown could see a decrease in gang violence as there will be more policing in the streets and random shooting will also decrease as there will be less people to hide behind. The selling of drugs should also decrease as there will be less movement on the streets so less ability to move drugs around and sell it, said Captain Bennett.
Ms Masters, who writes an advice for some of the Cape Community Newspapers’ titles, said that spending days, weeks or even months, in the presence of an abusive partner takes an immense emotional toll on the victim. She said that abusive partners of undocumented individuals could threaten victims or survivors that they will be deported should they seek help from authorities.
“The concern is that these types of threats will escalate during the coronavirus crisis, and with information about the government’s response changing nearly by the hour, survivors may not know who or what to believe. Those who may have felt safe once their partner left for work or their children were at school, now live without any window of relief as businesses, schools, churches and other social contact spaces shut down,” she said.
After the president’s address, Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu, said government was aware of the possibility of an increase in domestic violence.
“We cannot afford to find out after the lockdown that women and children did not have anywhere to go. The deployment of social services and social workers is going to be very difficult, but it’s a must,” she said.
She said that individuals dealing with quarantine or isolation could do some physical exercise, spiritual practices, cognitive exercises such as puzzles, learning something new online, relaxation exercises such as breathing, meditation, mindfulness, reading books and magazines or other hobbies.
Individuals should also reduce the time spent looking at fearful images or catastrophic stories, rumours or fake information spread via social media and instead search information from reliable sources. They could also stay in contact with family and friends via online platforms and allow children to express their feelings about the virus.
“Talk about it in a simplified way to them and try to find creative ways to manage your own anxiety so that they can feel a sense of safety and protection. Use this as an opportunity to play family games, board games and create healthy family rituals such as cooking and creating something together (not worrying about outcomes of perfection),” she said.
To report gender-based violence, call the Gender Based Violence Command Centre on 0800 428 428, Skype: HELPMEGBV or call the toll-free number 0800 150 150 or *120*7867#.