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Pandemic Diaries: Shhhhh… silent victims

By Jamie Etheridge

We‘re all aware now of the call by governments to stay home, stay safe. For most of us this is great advice. Our homes are our sanctuaries – the place where we are safest, most relaxed and, well, ‘at home’. But for one category of people, primarily women, home is the most dangerous place of all.

Across the globe, authorities are reporting an increase in domestic violence cases triggered by the ‘stay at home’ directives from authorities. In families where male abusers are already active, the added stress of the coronavirus pandemic can trigger additional violent attacks on female relatives, especially wives, sisters and children.

In Kuwait, domestic violence is one of those taboos rarely discussed openly in public. There are a few important initiatives like Abolish 153 that are working to change the laws surrounding the issue. But there are few resources for victims. Women must get a medical report and file a police report, and quite often the police will only call the abuser and ask him to ‘sign an undertaking’ not to repeat the offense.

This seldom has any lasting impact, and moreover, many women do not ever seek medical help because of the taboo against the subject. This is true for both the Kuwaiti and much of the expatriate communities. Victims may or may not have some family support; otherwise they are pretty much on their own.

The situation is exponentially worsened in crisis periods, especially when abusers are ordered to stay at home. Even within families without violence, patience will wear thin and tempers will flare after spending days and weeks confined together with limited outside options.

In other countries, a variety of resources are available to victims of abuse including hotlines, safe shelters and government assistance. None of these are reliably available for all the women of Kuwait. As the pandemic has shown, however, Kuwait is capable of responding to the needs of all her citizens and residents. Isn’t it time that those who are silenced also receive help?

Editor’s Note: If you are a victim of domestic violence from a father, husband, brother or some other male relative, please seek help. You can go to get a medical report and file a police report. The Kuwait Psychological Association is also offering free telephone conversations during this period for those suffering mental stress, and even being able to speak to someone about your situation may help. Ask a friend or trusted family member for support or assistance.

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