As people continue to refrain from going out due to the spread of the new coronavirus, there are growing concerns about domestic violence. The government must strengthen its system to assess the damage, leading to relief efforts.
“Stress from telecommuting as well as the closure of our children’s school has made my husband violent.” “I intended to leave home to escape domestic violence, but have become unable to as my husband, who has no work to do, keeps a closer watch on me at home.”
Support groups for victims of domestic violence are receiving urgent requests for advice. In some cases, speaking with victims on the phone has become impossible and contact was lost.
The frustration of not being able to go out, combined with economic hardships and anxiety, may have led to violent conduct. It is worrisome whether domestic violence has become more serious.
Similar situations can also be seen in Western nations and other countries around the world where restrictions on going out are enforced. The United Nations has called on governments to place domestic violence countermeasures as one of the main policy measures to deal with the new coronavirus.
The Cabinet Office is expanding its consultation system as part of its emergency economic package. In addition to commissioning private organizations so telephone consultations can be accepted at night and on holidays, when local government offices are closed, consultations via social media and email are accepted.
Due to the closure of some public facilities following the declaration of a state of emergency, some local governments have been forced to curtail their operations, such as suspending face-to-face consultations. It is significant that the private sector will supplement the functions of local governments in providing counseling services.
It is also important to secure shelters for victims of domestic violence. Local governments offer victims a temporary shelter where they can stay for about two weeks. Flexible operations are essential, such as extending the period depending on the situation.
It has been pointed out that places for temporary refuge have been narrowed due to the closure of internet cafes and other places. Measures should be taken to subsidize accommodation facility fees and to provide more support to private shelters.
It is also important to note that the risk of child abuse increases in families where domestic violence occurs.
School closures have been prolonged and quite a few nurseries have stopped accepting children. The concern is that the chances of discovering signs of abuse, such as injuries to children, are decreasing.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has instructed local governments nationwide to assess the situation of children at risk of abuse. If the situation worsens, local governments are being requested to give required assistance to children, such as temporary protective custody.
By deepening coordination between related organizations, precisely because we are in an emergency situation, the hope is that calls for help will not be overlooked.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on April 20, 2020.