Reports of domestic violence climbed 70% in the last week of March, apparently due to the quarantine that has been in place in different parts of the country. As a result, the Ministry of Women is implementing new ways to reach victims. These include a new WhatsApp number.
Many countries have reported a rise in domestic violence due to shelter-in-place, quarantine, and other orders that have families stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chile is no different, with the Ministry of Women underscoring a 70% increase in domestic violence claims the last week of March.
To combat this problem, the Ministry is creating a WhatsApp number so that women can silently report their aggressors without having to call. The ministry is also creating a text number for those who don’t have the app. Authorities are also implementing an online police station portal where victims can report without alerting their abusers.
In addition, the regular phone number 1455 will still be available 24/7 for those who need it.
During an interview, the Minister of Women, Carolina Cuevas, said, “We have talked with Spain about how to resolve this issue.” Spain had a similar rise in domestic violence during the pandemic, and from this conversation came the idea to create a code word that women could say when they go to a pharmacy. The code word would alert the pharmacist, and the pharmacist would in turn alert authorities.
The Minister of Women also stressed the importance of “keeping all these channels open during this time so that women will be able to receive guidance.” She emphasized that due to the confinement of quarantines and other similar orders, many women who had not been the victims of abuse in the past could be in the future. Lastly, she said that while confinement and the lack of distractions for aggressors could raise the numbers, removing alcohol as a variable could help reduce them.
Domestic Abuse During The Pandemic
Countries all over the world have seen a rise in domestic abuse complaints during the pandemic. It is thought that this is mostly a consequence of the fact that victims are forced to spend quarantine with their abusers without the possibility of either of them leaving, combined with increased pressures as a result of other related factors — job loss, children at home, and physical isolation to name but a few. An additional complicating factor is that many of the authorities who normally investigate these events aren’t able to do so because of their own pandemic related limitations and burdens.
The United Nations has urged countries to create safe ways for women to look for support, without alerting their abusers. The organization has also said that convicted domestic abusers should not be liberated as part of any pandemic response, and that courts should remain open to continue processing them. Lastly, it asked for countries to declare women’s shelters essential to society.