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Razia Sultana
Razia Sultana
PhD Researcher, Global Mental Health and Cultural Psychiatry Research Group, Division of Psychology and Mental Health, University of Manchester
13 Sep 2020 17:06:58

Lift in domestic violence during Covid-19 explained

Lift in domestic violence during Covid-19 explained
Photo: Collected

The outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19) started from the last of December 2019 in Wuhan, China. Now, more than 173 countries have been affected by this virus. Early in the Covid-19 outbreak, experts warned of increased violence against women and children. World Health Organization estimated that globally one in three women is abused by domestic violence and 4-12% during pregnancy. This existing domestic violence is likely to exacerbate in the context of Covid-19.

Within a very short period of time, domestic violence has increased in several countries in this lockdown period such as China, France, India, Cyprus, Singapore, UK, USA, Spain, and in other countries. Unfortunately, we know broadly the reason for this which is lockdown for Covid-19, but the cause of domestic violence cannot be explained easily.

In this write-up, the ecological model will be used as a guideline for identifying the causes and risk factors for domestic violence why some women are at higher risk of domestic violence, while others are more secure from it. This model was developed by Lori Heise, Professor of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH). This evidence-based model has some essential factors which try to explore the root cause of domestic violence.

The ecological model has four interconnected levels, and each level has a cluster domestic violence risk factors which might be the potential reason for domestic violence. This model may visualise the risk factors that cause and maintain domestic violence, and realistically capture the complexity of this current situation. However, there are other existing theories explain domestic violence. Still, there are no theories that take into account the multiple casual risk factors that operate a different level of analysis. One of the vital contributions of this model is that it permits for many causal and maintaining factors on diverse levels that can operate simultaneously, either independently or interactively. This ecological model can be used to clarify individual instances of spouse abuse, as well as domestic violence as a social problem. The four levels of ecological models are given below in figure 2:

Photo: Violence Prevention Alliance


The individual elements refer to person’s own life experience as victim or perpetrator which included being victimised as a child, witnessing of parental violence, adverse history of violent behaviours, psychological or personality disorder, alcohol or substance abusive experience.

The research suggested that anger, fear, depression, low self-esteem, self-blaming, memory loss, poor concentration, suspiciousness or paranoia are the influential factors recurrent domestic violence experience for both victims and perpetrators. In Covid-19 lockdown situation, women stay twenty-four hours with the perpetrator and continuously experiencing domestic violence. BBC News reported that one victim women who fled her abuser in this Covid-19 because of intolerable physical and mental torture since the lockdown started.

Relationship factors include some family-oriented difficulties such as poor parenting practice, marital discord, violent parental conflict, low socioeconomic household status, friends that engage in violence. In this Covid-19 situation, women are unable to contact with closest social circle-peers, family members who may help them in their vulnerable situation.

Community factors mainly involve social relationships, for example, poverty, high crime levels, high residential mobility, high unemployment, local illicit drug trade, situational factors. Poverty is one of the potential social risk factors for violence as it has a connection with stress which contributes to domestic violence.

Societal factors which contain some social challenge which might be a potential cause for domestic violence (i.e., rapid social change, gender, social and economic inequalities, poverty, the poor law against victims], the cultural norm that support violence, social isolation). The researcher identified the social risk factors which made British South Asian women silent, submissive and tolerant of frequent victimization. This type of social risk factor (honour) shapes the roles of both females and males so that males are generally aggressive and tough to women. In contrast, females possess feelings of modesty, shame for men who create the right name for the family and ultimately encourage domestic violence. In the Covid-19 lockdown situation, a high-profile campaigner, Rachel Williams from the UK informed that domestic violence and potentially homicides would escalate as social distancing restrictions in the UK.

The ecological model with the individual, relationship, community, and societal factors can discover the risk factors which are related to domestic violence. This ecological framework treats the interaction between factors at different levels with equal importance to the influence of factors within a single. In current Covid-19 situation, this model can play an important role as thought provoker for identifying the hidden causes of domestic violence at different levels. This evidence-based model can support early detection of the risks of domestic violence which can aid researchers and service providers to create strategies for preventing violence in specific cases, and policymakers will gain a better understanding of domestic violence risk factors that promote and prevent violence on a community or national level through.


(The writer is a PhD Researcher, Global Mental Health and Cultural Psychiatry Research Group, Division of Psychology and Mental Health, University of Manchester)