EDS Position paper on the issue of domestic violence during the COVID-19 crisis

According to the European Parliament statement, the lockdown measures European countries have implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic have led domestic violence to rise by a third in some countries. Financial insecurity could play an important role in preventing victims from leaving their abuser. Women in disadvantaged groups tend to be more at risk of experiencing domestic violence, namely women with disabilities, migrant domestic workers, queer and transgender women, and asylum seekers. Although domestic violence is an issue which predominately affects women, in fact, according to the UN a third of women across the world has experienced a form of violence in their life, it is also a problem that affects men.

France, which has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Europe, has seen a rise of 32%. Despite the fact that the government has put a number of measures in place, such as temporary support centers outside of supermarkets and agreeing to pay 20 000 overnight stays in hotels and shelters, few victims seem to have taken advantage of them so far.  

Due to a spike in reports of domestic violence, two German states have announced a new hotline for male victims of domestic violence. In Belgium, the Flemish Helpline reported a 70% rise in calls for help in the third week of lockdown compared to the first week; the calls involved almost double the number of potential victims of violence. However, countries such as Italy or France have witnessed a steep fall in calls, as women are finding it harder to seek help in the times of lockdown. the time of the lockdown.

In addition to this member states should implement additional measures which don’t rely on digital solutions, since access is not guaranteed, or victims are afraid of reporting domestic violence. For instance, France and Spain have launched a campaign to advertise an alert mechanism for women to seek help in pharmacies.

Echoing the most recent Declaration by the Council of Europe on Combatting Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence during the COVID-19 Pandemic (April 20, 2020), we acknowledge the need for a coordinated European approach where countries share their data to ensure that the police and other support services are able to respond to the specific modalities of domestic violence in times of crisis. Also, keeping in mind that the preparedness for such an increase in case numbers may vary from one country to another, we urge for bold decision-making, not only on local national levels, but also on a European level.

EDS therefore calls upon European policy makers to: 

  • Ensure that member states provide victims with flexible and creative tools to report abuse; increase the places in violence protection facilities and shelters with the appropriate measures taken to protect victims from the spread of the virus.
  • Ensure that member states reach out in a language which the victims will understand, i.e. pay attention to the specific needs of the victims which are particularly hard to reach.
  • Recognise the lack and need of a legally binding instrument with regard to eliminating domestic violence. 
  • Recognise the need for awareness campaigns to ensure that victims have information about the services they can access for emergency protection and support.
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