Home should be the safest place when a pandemic rages outside. But for some, it has become a prison marked by violence and abuse.

As most people around the world are self-isolating at home to stop the spread of the coronavirus, cases of domestic violence have spiked.

Although the latest national statistics have not been released in Taiwan, local media have reported a 6 percent growth of domestic violence cases in New Taipei City in February. That number rose dramatically to 29 percent in March.

Even for those who are not under mandatory quarantine, the pandemic has made it difficult for victims to travel, to reach out to friends, or to find a temporary shelter when needed.

UN Women recently published a report titled “Covid-19 and ending violence against women and girls,” citing data that shows a global surge in domestic violence cases since the outbreak.

Violence perpetrated by intimate partners is also likely to increase “as security, health, and money worries heighten tensions and strains are accentuated by cramped and confined living conditions,” the report states.

In France, for instance, domestic violence cases have increased by 30 percent since the lockdown on March 17, according to the UN Women report. In Cyprus and Singapore, helplines have registered around a 30-percent increase in calls.

The rising number of domestic violence reports only shows the tip of the iceberg. Many victims are still trapped at home, under close surveillance by their cohabitants, and are unable to reach out for help.

Huang Rui-feng (黃瑞鳳), the Hualien branch director of the Garden of Hope Foundation, told The News Lens that domestic abuse problems have been more noticeable in the Hualien county.

“Since tourism is a major industry in Hualien, job opportunities have been decreasing since the outbreak and [this has] led to more family tensions,” Huang said. “The shock to the economy and employment has added stress to families that were already at a financial disadvantage.”

Deputy Manager of Taipei Domestic Violence Prevention Center Chen Yen-ju said that Taiwan has not implemented strict home isolation measures like other countries. As a result, it is still too early to attribute the rise of domestic violence reports to the Covid-19.

The Domestic Violence Prevention Act in Taiwan offers protection to victims by asking the abusers to leave the residence and the living environment of the victims. A victim may file a written petition with the court for a protection order.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare also has a 24-hour hotline for the consultation and report of domestic violence and sexual assault.

However, Taiwan has not enacted any additional policies or adjusted services to tackle domestic violence due to social isolation during the pandemic while some other countries are doing more to help the victims.

For instance, the Danish government has funded 55 extra rooms in shelters for domestic violence victims, according to BBC. France and Spain have also taken extra measures to set up counseling centers and to establish new ways for women to alert the authorities discreetly.

Reporting contributed by Abby Huang.

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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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