Domestic Violence under Lockdown

With Latin America joining much of the world in implementing lockdown measures to mitigate against the spread of Covid-19, there is heightened concern regarding what unintended consequences may be occurring behind closed doors.

Conscious of this, on 3 June Canning House held a discussion of the escalation of domestic violence under lockdown with expert speakers, examining how the situation is affecting vulnerable people in Latin America and the UK, and what organisations in the field are doing to support them in these difficult circumstances.

We heard from...

Professor Maxine Molyneux

Canning House Associate Fellow and Professor of Sociology, UCL Institute of the Americas

Jessica Asato

Head of Public Affairs and Policy, SafeLives

Gabriela Quevedo

Director, Latin American Women's Aid (LAWA)

Event summary

Following words of welcome from our CEO Cristina Cortes, Professor Maxine Molyneux provided an overview of domestic violence in Latin America and its escalation under lockdown.

With the region now the 'red zone' for Covid-19 according to WHO, an increase in rates of domestic abuse has emerged as just one of the social consequences of quarantine measures. However, while current circumstances - including the confinement, anxiety and mental health challenges of lockdown - have brought about this escalation, Maxine highlighted that domestic abuse is a systemic problem in Latin America. A high cultural tolerance and slow policy response in many countries leaves more action required across the board - though consensus on key issues is beginning to emerge.

Jessica Asato from SafeLives told us about the work her organisation undertake to support vulnerable people in the UK - shifting narratives of abuse from "why doesn't she leave?" to "why doesn't he stop?" Overall, she argued that the UK's rise in domestic violence rates under Covid-19 was preventable. While emergency measures have been implemented, the government's funding has been insufficient and its communication to victims has been poor. Resultantly, a surge in demand on the National Domestic Abuse Helpline has not been reflected across local services. While the crisis has brought innovations, the future impact of domestic violence under lockdown remains uncertain, and government leadership remains essential.

Director of Latin American Women's Aid, Gabriela Quevedo described how LAWA have adapted their work with Latin American women in the UK during the Covid-19 crisis. The organisation, which offers two refuge homes run by and for Latin American and BME women - the only two of their kind in Europe - has focused during the pandemic on making its resources accessible from home - by phone and online. By working directly with a number of London Boroughs, LAWA have been able to effectively target their valuable resources to help Latin American women in need.

Our panel answered excellent questions on cultural shifts in Latin America, the impact of female police officers, the difficulty of helping victims in informal settlements, legal practice around domestic violence, and more.

More resources:

During the session, Jess provided links to several organisations and resources:

Rights of Women

Centre for Women's Justice

Sisters for Change

Gender distribution of England and Wales police officers, Statista

Read SafeLives' guidance on domestic abuse and Covid-19

Jess also wrote the following on domestic abuse against men: Many women's services do provide support to men as well and Respect runs the Men's Advice Line. There is no dedicated refuge for men, however, and they experience barriers to accessing services because of a lack of understanding that they can be victims too. Many male victims will be victims of male violence in a gay relationship and apart from the great work of Galop and a few other specialist LGBT 'by and for' services in London, Manchester and Brighton, it is hard for those victims to access specific LGBT services in their area.

We are also pleased to also offer resources from Sarah Cooper, a family barrister at Thomas More Chambers with extensive experience in Latin America:

Read Thomas More Chambers' guidance on domestic abuse and Covid-19

Listen to Get Legally Speaking's podcast on domestic abuse

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