Victims of Domestic Violence at Greater Risk with Stay at Home Orders

Gina Vucci, author, and women’s human rights activist, based in the U.S., takes a look at the escalating danger of domestic violence – a parallel pandemic taking place behind closed doors.

As we received the notice to go on lockdown in the San Francisco Bay Area 16 March, 2020, I focused on the immediate needs of my elderly mother who is on palliative care and lives with me.  And while my daughter is a miraculous bone marrow transplant survivor and a healthy 17-year-old, she is still immunocompromised, so she, too, had my attention.   

As I went to fill the car with gas, and grab a few last-minute items, I had a sinking feeling in my chest… the thought of women being held captive in their homes with their abusers. 

The memory of nearly losing my life at the hands of my ex-husband, and the fear of being trapped with him and his unpredictable behaviour, gave me chills. 

Now, in the middle of lockdown, I fear for the lives of people — especially women and children — all over the world who are suffering behind closed doors. 

“We’re having really difficult conversations, running through horrific scenarios.” Katie Ray-Jones, chief executive of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, in New York Times 

Katie Ray-Jones, chief executive of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, recently spoke with the New York Times, outlining the grave risk women are in, and the increase in calls and incidents of domestic violence. 

Domestic violence is about power and control. An abuser exerts power and control over victims through physical, verbal, financial, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse using manipulation, intimidation, threats, and violence. 

As Ray-Jones shares in this article, we are all experiencing a “loss of power and control,” and this impacts how “victims and survivors are being treated in their homes.” 

And, the fear of contracting COVID-19 is making it even more difficult for women who have been physically injured by their partners to go to the hospital for treatment. 

Others are unable to access their phone or computers safely. Victims are isolated from friends and family, and unable to access support and services without risking their lives. Children who once found safety at school, are subjected to ongoing abuse in their home.

Many police stations are closed to the public, accessible by phone-in only. Many courts are closed too, bringing to a halt, custody orders and restraining orders. 

And this is happening all over the world. 

“When women and girls are ‘locked down’ in their homes with abusive partners, they are at much greater risk than ever before.” Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General 

The United Nations just released a statement advocating for an immediate global action to end all forms of violence against women and girls in the midst of a global upsurge related to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic across the world. 

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, called on governments around the world to address the increase in domestic violence in their response to the pandemic.

“For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest — in their own homes,” Guterres said, imploring with national governments to “dedicate funding in national COVID-19 response plans for domestic violence shelters, increased support to call-in lines, including text services so reports of abuse can take place discreetly, online legal support and psychosocial services for women and girls.”

Photo: UN Women

As Ms. Magazine reports, in their article, ‘Coronavirus Poses Fresh Challenges for Domestic Violence Shelters Around the World’: “News outlets around the globe have reported on dangers that social distancing, self isolation and quarantining may have on domestic violence.”

In Canada, women’s shelters report a 300% surge in calls to their hotline. In the U.S., websites are seeing an increase in online access as well, with one site receiving 1240 visitors in just 12 days

In the article, Ms. Magazine also shared reports from the United Kingdom, where a man was accused of murdering his wife, during self-isolating in their home, and how a police station in China reported that domestic violence cases had tripled in February, compared to the previous year.

Many of us are acutely aware of how stay at home orders are impacting our lives and loved ones, however, it is critical we raise awareness for those who are suffering in silence, likely just a few doors away.

Domestic violence often isn’t like we see on T.V. It’s not obvious and the case is not wrapped up neatly and there is rarely “justice.” Women who are like I was, women whose lives look “normal” on the outside, are facing a living hell right now. 

If this is you, you are not alone — and yes, it is as hard as you think it is.  And when you’re ready, you can get help. Special arrangements are being made for you, and support is available to get you to safety. 

In the U.S., you can start here: 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7, every day. Call 1-800-799-7233 SAFE, or if you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto or text LOVEIS to 22522. For immediate dangers, call 911.

Outside of the U.S., or to find out how you can support advocates on the frontlines of helping survivors, go to your SI Federation, or online to find your national domestic violence hotline, or locate your nearest women’s shelter or domestic abuse agency.  


United Nations:

New York Times:

Ms. Magazine:

Further information can be found at:


Gina Vucci is an author, women’s human rights activist, and fierce advocate for people and the planet. Passionate about intervening on behalf of those in need — especially those who are most vulnerable and without a voice or seat at the table, Gina lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is the co-founder of Reclaim Lives, a survivor-led nonprofit organisation serving survivors of gender-based violence, through victim-centred, trauma-informed, holistic care. 



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