Domestic/Family Violence in the COVID-19 ERA

18-20 Nov, 2020


18-20 November, 2020 International Virtual Summit

Yael Danieli, PhD,

Chair, Working Group on COVID-19 and Domestic/Family Violence

Of the United Nations Headquarters NGO Alliance on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

As COVID-19 has done with humanity’s other existentially multigenerational threats and challenges, so has it mercilessly ripped open our assumptions regarding how we live with each other in general, and at our homes in particular.

In fact, worldwide “sheltering in place” —  the primary structural protective measure against COVID-19 — has rendered an untold number of already vulnerable individuals and groups not only more dangerously defenseless but, when unable to flee or seek help, also voiceless and hopeless. Closed off from the outside, those experiencing domestic/family violence have been deprived of their ordinarily available, or at least accessible, external support and preventive systems, such as caring family members, friends, and neighbors, schools, shops, law enforcement, healthcare, places of worship, and other community centers’ personnel.  Locked inside, sometimes with no means of escape or even contact with the outside, they have been trapped with their perpetrators. Were escape even possible, it would put them at risk for contracting the deadly novel coronavirus.

Potential perpetrators too are now deprived of their own usual means of maintaining their self-esteem, coping with, and mastering life’s challenges, be they income, status, work structure, physical exertion and sports, and outside family and camaraderie.  For the most part, many cultures not only stereotypically glorify power and control, but denigrate closeness, dependency, tenderness, vulnerability and ambiguity.  Moreover, very rarely do most cultures provide (potential) perpetrators with non-violent means of managing such emotions, especially in themselves, nor of coping with frustration, disappointment, conflict, weakness, and pent-up aggression.  This perpetrator-victim power dynamic thus serves to compensate for the