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Violence against women during covid-19 pandemic restrictions

BMJ 2020; 369 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1712 (Published 07 May 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m1712

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Rapid Response:

Domestic Abuse during COVID-19 - What about the boys?

Dear Editor,

Home should typically be a place of refuge during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roesch E. et al. successfully demonstrates how self-isolation can lead to female victims of abuse having little escape from their abusers. Whilst we accept the rubric that ‘protection for women and girls’ is mandatory to future response plans, we ask: why is the issue of male domestic abuse not being considered?

Domestic abuse is typically experienced by women, but is frequently experienced by men.[1] Figures from the Office of National Statistics, confirm that of every three domestic abuse cases in the United Kingdom (UK), two victims are female and one is male.[1]

The national lockdown which took effect on the 23rd March 2020[2], effectively trapped male and female victims of violence with their abusers. The Mankind Initiative, a well-established charity in Britain offering support to male victims, reported a 35% increase in call volumes compared to the pre-lockdown period. In addition, visitors to the Mankind Initiative website in the week of 27th April 2020 were three times higher than before the lockdown. The most popular pages visited on the website concerned signs of domestic abuse in men and statistics on male victims.[3]

The UK government has responded to concerns regarding the safety of domestic abuse victims during this pandemic, stressing that self-isolation rules do not apply under such circumstances.[4] While the level of dissemination of this message may be arguably lacking, the government clearly encourages reporting of domestic violence by both genders, either to the police or local charities.[4]

Men often find it more difficult to seek help; and social prejudice, embarrassment and shame have been proposed as potential reasons for this.[5, 6] Reluctance in reaching out is reflected in published figures of domestic violence victims, with 51% of men versus 81% of women sharing their concerns about potential abuse with another person.[3] Mankind Initiative identifies a lack of reference to male victims of domestic violence in both the media and in politics to be a key issue.[7]

We propose that any future response regarding protection of individuals who experience domestic violence should reference both male and female victims. This will help prevent the further isolation of male victims and potentially increase the likelihood they will report the abuse.

References:

1. Domestic Abuse Prevalence and Victim Characteristics - Appendix Tables. In: Statistics ONS, editor.: Office for National Statistics; 2019.

2. PM address to the nation on coronavirus: 23 March 2020. 2020 23rd March.

3. Media and Policy Briefing: Male Victims of Domestic Abuse and Covid-19 Briefing (3): 27th April to 3rd May 2020. Mankind Initiative; 2020.

4. Coronavirus (COVID-19): support for victims of domestic abuse. In: Office H, editor.: www.gov.uk; 2020.

5. Shelter S. Domestic violence and abuse against men: Shelter 2020 [Available from:https://scotland.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/advice_topics/families_and_ho....

6. Ross J. Male domestic abuse victims 'suffering in silence'2019. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-47252756.

7. Brooks M. Male victims of domestic abuse and partner abuse: 50 key facts. Mankind Initiative; March 2020.

Competing interests: No competing interests

12 May 2020
Emma C Warburton
Medical Student
Georgia Raniolo: Medical Student, Bart's and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry
University of Liverpool
United Kingdom