Victims of abuse silenced in lockdown

Marianna Bibby

Gender-based violence (GBV) has been a major issue in recent times. However, as lockdown continues, there have been less reports related to incidents of abuse, particularly intimate violence in the home.

Could this be a reflection of a decrease in cases of GBV and domestic violence? According to police spokesperson Sam Makhele, there has been a sharp decline of reported cases since the beginning of lockdown.

“Although we are not in a position to release statistics, we have noted a remarkable decrease in domestic-related crimes and the figures prove that as well. These crimes include, but are not exclusive to, murder, attempted murder, rape and sexual assault. This has been the pattern since the beginning of our Covid-19 operations,” he said.

However, could a decrease in reports be an indication of silenced victims because of the isolating effects of lockdown within an abusive home? Bloem Shelter Financial Manager, Marianna Bibby, said that the organisation still receives the usual amount of frequent requests for assistance during lockdown. “We had a full-house of occupancy just before lockdown, so when the lockdown was announced we “closed” the home to any new intakes.

This was because of risk factors including travelling issues for our support staff during the pandemic. We had the normal amount of frequent requests as most of our residents are there because of domestic violence,” she explained.

According to Coordinator and Head of the Department of Social Work at the University of the Free State, Prof. Sandra Ferreira, it is no surprise that there may be a difference in reports at this stage.

“Although it might be true that there is a decrease of reported cases of domestic and gender-based violence, the broader picture of the prevalence will bring about a different interpretation. Information from NGOs working with victims of domestic and gender-based violence will probably relate a different view,” she explained.

Nomaqhawe Mtebele