Behind the closed doors of lockdown, the abuser’s eyes glow with the darkness to hurt. Shadow Pandemic, the United Nations calls it- is the parallel infection of our society that continues 24×7 all over the world. Now kindled by the lockdown.
Behind fallen window-blinds, behind the shut doors, behind the abuser’s bright smile, underneath the affectionate arms wrapping the waist. As an overprotective lover maybe. Worse, sexual abuse. Domestic abuse doesn’t care for a pandemic to take place. Because it is a pandemic in itself.
Titanic actor Kate Winslet partnered with the United Nations to address the growing concern of domestic abuse rampant — now invoked — in our society. Winslet lends voice for a sixty-second film that reflects the silent abuse women continue to face in the world.
The video starts with Winslet directly addressing the concern- trapped with the abusers in lockdown. Across the world domestic abuse has spiked since when countries have started imposing strict stay-at-home orders to contains the virus. The UN in April predicted this year’s indoor abuse cases would touch 31 million, apart from the usual numbers. Data obtained from leading Universities from the US and Australia found a total of 61 million cases would surface if the lockdown happens for one year.
“Right now many peoples are trapped in their homes with an abuser. This is the Shadow Pandemic,” she says. The video shows 14 different indoor scenes across the world. Despite they are seemingly normal, candid indoor scenes, with toys scattered, chairs flipped, or a photo frame facing down, the evocative music and Kate’s voice-over presents the intended picture.
“In one weekend calls domestic abuse helplines went up by 65%. In the US, Asia, and pretty much everywhere reported numbers are rising. These are just numbers. They are people you might know,” the Academy Award-winning star says. Winslet herself champions a number of humanitarian causes including propagating positive female body image. She also co-founded The Golden Hat Foundation.
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Europe alone encountered a significant hike in domestic abuse on women during the lockdown. There’s a “60% increase in emergency calls by women subjected to violence by their intimate partners in April this year, compared to last,” WHO Europe regional-director Hans Kluge said. Not just in Europe, cases have increased globally, with data showing a worrying impact. In the US, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has reported a growing number of victims reaching out via phone or text for help.
Its high-time immediate action is taken. Winslet urges people to educate themselves about domestic violence. Oftentimes it happens under the shroud of normal. Domestic violence also includes psychological, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse, a part of physical.
The Indian National Commission for Women (NCW) has raised an urgent alert about the growing number of domestic abuse in the nation. Discontinued social mobility, scarcity of emotional support from other family members have made the matters worse.
What can be done?
When faced with adverse situations that have escalated to life-threatening, one should immediately call the local police or any other domestic abuse helpline centers. For the uninitiated, a person might not realize that she (he) is a victim of domestic violence. Kate Winslet and UN advise people to know the layers and patterns of the issue and keep a record of local helpline number.
In India, the matter gets a bit complicated. Whereas across the world helpline numbers have documented a rise in calls, India has seen a reverse effect during a lockdown. “A spike in helpline number will tell you that they are still trying to connect. But if the number going down, especially during a lockdown, it tells you that the situation is worse,” Regional Director of International Planned Parenthood Federation Soma Mehta told The Quint.
Often mediums of reaching out to domestic abuse helplines are post, mail, and digital mediums like email, calls, SMS, and so on. The lockdown has hampered the physical mediums like mail and post. The only remaining option- the digital medium is there but is again reportedly struck by the nation’s digital gap, which is one of the highest in the world. As of 2018, 45% of Indian women don’t own mobile phones.
“The shadow pandemic is spreading right now. Let’s help each other safely right now:” Kate Winslet ends the short film.
(Cover image courtesy of @titanicdevoted via Twitter)