Lockdown and Intimate Terrorism

As cities and towns across China locked down, a 26-year-old woman named Lele found herself entangled in more and more arguments with her husband, with whom she now had to spend every hour in their home in Anhui Province, in eastern China.

On March 1, while Lele was holding her 11-month-old daughter, her husband began to beat her with a high chair. She is not sure how many times he hit her. Eventually, she says, one of her legs lost feeling and she fell to the ground, still holding the baby in her arms.

A photograph she took after the incident shows the high chair lying on the floor in pieces, two of its metal legs snapped off — evidence of the force with which her husband wielded it against her. Another image documents Lele’s injuries: Nearly every inch of her lower legs was covered in bruises, a huge hematoma blooming on her left calf.

Lele — her full name is not being used for her safety —said that her husband had abused her throughout their six-year relationship, but that the Covid-19 outbreak made things far worse.

“During the epidemic, we were unable to go outside, and our conflicts just grew bigger and bigger and more and more frequent,” she said. “Everything was exposed.”

As quarantines take effect around the world, that kind of “intimate terrorism” — a term many experts prefer for domestic violence — is flourishing. In China, a Beijing-based NGO dedicated to combating violence against women, Equality, has seen a surge in calls to its help line since early February, when the government locked down cities in Hubei Province, then the outbreak’s epicenter. In Spain, the emergency number for domestic violence received 18 percent more calls in the first two weeks of lockdown than in the same period a month earlier. “We’ve been getting some very distressing calls, showing us clearly just how intense psychological as well as physical mistreatment can get when people are kept 24 hours a day together within a reduced space,” said Ana Bella, who set up a foundation to help other women after surviving domestic violence herself.

On Thursday, the French police reported a nationwide spike of about 30 percent in domestic violence. Christophe Castaner, the French interior minister, said he had asked officers to be on the lookout for abuse.

“The risk increases due to confinement,” he said in an interview on French television.


To be continued ......

Except from Amanda Taub9 from the NY Times)

Published April 6, 2020 Updated April 14, 2020

Reporting was contributed by Raphael Minder from Spain, Vivian Wang from Hong Kong, Constant Méheut from France and Elisabetta Povoledo from Italy.

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