Being abused verbally, emotionally and at times even physically has never been a stranger to women across the world but in India alone, the spike in the number of domestic violence cases broke 10-year records. If this was not shocking enough, statistics reveal that 86% women who experience domestic violence do not seek help in India while 77% of the victims do not even mention the incident to anyone.
During the first four phases of the COVID-19 lockdown, between March 25, 2020 and May 31, 2020, Indian women made 1,477 complaints of domestic violence. This raised the question about whether domestic violence is the next pandemic in India.
The situation in other countries too appeared grim as the United Nations Population Fund in collaboration with Avenir Health, Johns Hopkins University in the US and Victoria University in Australia witnessed a 20% increase in domestic violence during an average three-month lockdown in all 193 UN member states. Looking at the gravity of the situation, the Canadian Women’s Foundation introduced a unique hand gesture on April 14, 2020, as a sign to alert others for help against domestic abuse.
Directions for victims
As the aforementioned stats have already proved that speaking about your abuse is not easy and certainly not possible in front of your abuser or those who are alley to him, make a video call and signal with the hand gesture. Hold up your hand before the camera, tuck your thumb into your palm first and then fold your fingers down one by one, trapping your thumb under them. The single continuous hand movement was designed to make it more visible but not suspicious like a sign held in one position only.
Directions for helpers
Learn the hand signal show in the video above. You may not need it but someone might and if you notice someone signaling with this hand gesture, act immediately in a manner that does not alarm the abuser.
You can help the victim of domestic abuse by instantly texting, sending and email or calling the person who did the hand gesture for help and comfortably cross check if they want you to call a helpline. Ask them this with some simple YES/NO questions and then call on your state or country’s domestic violence helpline number to register a complaint for legal action against the abuser. Gently comfort the victim and let them know that you got them sorted and got their back always.
The stigma attached to divorce in India is a major cause of why women suffer abuse in silence instead of walking out of abusive marriages. Going to stay at their parents for some relief was made more difficult during the lockdown as travelling came to a halt.
A spike has been witnessed in the domestic violence cases worldwide amid the COVID-19 lockdown as women have been forced to live with their abusers. Learn the hand signal shown in the video to alert others for help against domestic abuse and teach the same to others.