Abuse on rise amid outbreak

Abuse on rise amid outbreak

Incidents linked to job-loss and alcohol

Domestic violence has almost doubled since the onset of Covid-19, according to the Social Development and Human Security Ministry.

The number of violent incidents stemming from domestic conflicts from the start of February to the end of last month came to 474, said Patcharee Arayakul, deputy permanent secretary for social development and human security.

The ministry had added more staff to its 1300 hotline section to deal with the increasing number of calls.

There were 15 lines available before February and at present, 60 staff are manning the lines.

Ms Patcharee added the hotline usually receives a mix of calls about the government's Covid-19 relief measures or complaints about domestic violence.

Women and children were usually the victims of violence and most complaints stemmed from incidents of assault or arguments related to extramarital affairs and jealousy. Other complaints included mental stress resulting from economic stagnation brought on by the pandemic.

The ministry sends a team to help victims immediately if calls to the hotline are made while the violence is ongoing.

In some cases, the team assessed the victims' living environment was no longer safe and relocated them to an emergency shelter arranged by the ministry. Victims are also provided with welfare counselling and legal aid if needed.

Supensri Puengkoksung, director of the Social Equality Promotion Foundation, said a combination of factors is responsible for the rise in domestic violence amid the pandemic.

Economic woes have raised people's stress levels as many realise their jobs are at risk. Also, people are heavily drinking as they cannot go out to socialise. When intoxicated, people often take out their frustration on their family members.

"The right attitude and respect for others needs to be forged among everyone, especially men," Ms Supensri said.

She said domestic violence sometimes plays out on social media where threats are made or exchanged by family members; police need to step in to deter such violence.

Santhanee Dissayabutr, a prosecutor at the provincial juvenile and family litigation office in Ayutthaya, said the violence occurs when the homes are no longer safe.

Ms Santhanee said family members living within close proximity over an extended period during the lockdown can create friction and mounting economic hardship could cause violence to erupt.

In some countries, domestic abuse amid the crisis has risen by 20-30% and as a result, rapid response units have been set up for victims.

Technology is being used to provide more channels for people to obtain help when they encounter domestic violence.

Victims can report violence via an online app. It'll be picked up by helpers for assistance, she said.

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