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Editorial: ‘Stay home’ order needs to consider victims of domestic violence

  • April 22, 2020
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 4:01 p.m.
  • English Press

The novel coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 disease can “infect” the human mind as well.


Concerns are being raised about the pandemic triggering higher incidences of domestic violence and child abuse by people who are under considerable stress from not only losing their jobs or seeing their income plummet but also being forced to stay home.


In fact, such cases are growing in number around the world, and the United Nations has alerted and asked member nations to bolster countermeasures.


In Japan, a woman was fatally beaten by her husband when they argued over his income. And a private child welfare organization has looked into cases of child abuse by stressed-out parents.


In trying to prevent domestic violence or child abuse, a sustained relationship is indispensable between the family in trouble and the intervening party. Also important are tips and information from school teachers and local community members who are acquainted with the case.


However, the pandemic is causing problems to disappear underground, so to speak, because it has become quite difficult–if not outright impossible–to maintain close personal interactions as in normal times.


According to the All Japan Women’s Shelter Network, an NPO that supports victims of domestic violence, one of its clients recently stopped calling her counselor presumably because her abusive husband was home all the time and she could not talk on the phone.


The NPO has also learned of a local government agency that suspended face-to-face interviews with domestic violence victims to prevent the spread of COVID-19.


The government has called on all local governments to continue providing assistance to victims. And starting this week, an expanded support program called “DV Counseling Plus” became available from a government-commissioned private organization, which offers counseling through e-mail and social media as well as tele-interviews if necessary.


Such arrangements should help to accurately determine the situations the victims are in, and also prove effective in exposing offenders who are posing as victims to find out what the latter are up to.


But it has always been pointed out that domestic violence victims have to make multiple appeals to authorities before they can hope to receive protection. This is especially worrying, now that the bureaucracy is slowing down overall because of the pandemic.


Contingency measures must be put in place for immediate responses to emergencies. If there are not enough existing shelters for victims, vacant hotel rooms and abandoned homes could provide temporary solutions.


Keeping track of up-to-date information on child abuse cases has become difficult because of prolonged school closures. We hope authorities will continue to follow up closely on high-risk youngsters, ensuring frequent home visits or phone calls by school teachers as well as social workers.


It is also vital to create regular occasions for face-to-face meetings with children, such as requiring all pupils to come to school on certain designated days.


And not to be overlooked is the importance of economic stimulus measures, since economic hardships are known to trigger a good number of domestic violence and child abuse cases. Even just to prevent such deeds, the government should send every resident the promised handout of 100,000 yen ($934) without delay.


However, to ensure that all victims of domestic violence will receive the payments even if they have already fled home, the government needs to rethink its payment procedure currently under consideration, which is to credit the bank account of the head of each household with the sum total for the entire family.


Since this procedure will let the heads of households do whatever they want with the payment for the whole family, the government needs to consider a more flexible setup.


The government is urging everybody to “stay home.” But for many people, their home is not a safe place. The government is being tested on its ability to deal appropriately with this hard, somber reality.

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