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COVID19: Staying home triggers spike in domestic abuse

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Violence against women has increased to an alarming level since Cyprus urged people to stay at home after reporting its first coronavirus cases on 9 March.

The Association for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (SPAVO) reports that incidents of domestic violence have increased by 30% as people confine themselves to their homes.

SPAVO director Andri Andronikou told the Financial Mirror that “home confinement, new working conditions, financial insecurity, the limiting of social contact, gives perpetrators the ‘opportunity’ to impose the dominant role that they think they have over women”.

She said that just in 10 days five women have requested shelter for themselves and their children, explaining that for a woman to come to the point to ask for refuge, that means that her life is in real danger.

“It is very alarming, as this means that on average, we are receiving one request every second day. At this rate, we will not be able to provide shelter for all women who are in danger.”

The SPAVO director said she is to ask for help from the state to expand the shelters’ capacity.

She explained that SPAVO was expecting an increase in incidents of violence against women as this is what happens during holidays when they spend more time at home with their abusive partner.

“However, this imposed quarantine may last for months,” said Andronikou noting that perpetrators are taking advantage of reduced staffing and the closure of social and legal services.

She noted that perpetrators are misinforming women, telling them that leaving for a shelter which will be overcrowded will only put them in danger of coming into contact with a COVID-19 sufferer.

Andronikou stressed that the shelters for women and children survivors in Nicosia, Limassol and Paphos are in full operation following all the appropriate measures as well as special arrangements which have been established to protect them along with the scientific staff that provides the services.

She called on abused women to report incidents of domestic violence to the police or the association either through the helpline 1440 or through other communication channels.

Andronikou said that women can contact them through their social media accounts, or through a live chat on their web page designed to erase messages at the sender’s end to provide more safety for women.

“Confining oneself may be saving lives, but this does not mean that women should put up with violence against them, which could also harm their children.”

The Gender Equality Commissioner, Iosifina Antoniou issued a statement in light of the data released by SPAVO urging women to come forward and report domestic violence.

“Break the vicious circle of violence, take your life in your own hands and open the escape door,” said Antoniou.