Requests by Japanese authorities for the public to refrain from going out to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in the country have brought concerns about increased cases of domestic violence and child abuse. Violence at home is hard to detect from outside. Efforts to prevent an escalation are needed now more than ever.
Families are likely to spend more time together than usual due to circumstances such as working from home and school and business closures. In addition to there being no end in sight to the pandemic, there is the stress of having restrictions imposed on one's movements and increasing anxiety over income cuts. As a way of venting frustrations, wives and children who are in a vulnerable position might become targets of violence.
Some countries have already seen domestic violence cases increase. In France, reports of abuse jumped by some 30% a mere week into a nationwide lockdown. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has raised an alarm over the "global surge in domestic violence."
According to an incorporated nonprofit organization supporting domestic violence victims in Japan, it has received consultation requests from women whose husbands became abusive after their workplaces were shifted to home, as well as about the abused wives beating their own children.
It is difficult to seek help when the abuser is at home. In fact, there have been cases where the victims who had been undergoing consultations about abuse stopped contact with staff. It is an urgent task for related agencies to make sure the victims do not feel isolated.
The Cabinet Office has announced an emergency plan to set up consultation desks available late at night as well as on weekends and holidays to respond to domestic violence cases. It also said it will accept consultation requests online. It is appropriate to expand people's opportunities to talk about their hardships.
Many local consultation centers have suspended their face-to-face services in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We ask that they come up with strategies so that they can offer continuous support to victims.
Furthermore, it's essential to secure shelters in case of an emergency. It would be desirable to have a system in which privately run shelters can be utilized with public funding, along with women's consultation centers.
There are a number of mothers and children who have left their homes without removing their names from the residence registry of the household. Consideration needs to be paid to such family members to ensure that they receive aid from both the state and local governments, including cash handouts.
Meanwhile, experts have warned that children tend to fall victim to abuse during vacation periods when schools cannot check their students' conditions at home. Many areas in Japan have already been seeing prolonged school closures. It is important for teachers and other related parties to notice signs of abuse by contacting their students' families regularly and visiting their homes when necessary.
Stronger cooperation among schools, local governments and child consultation centers is also required. Support from local residents who know the children in their community is essential as well.
Isolation from the outside world makes it hard for others to notice problems in households. We need a system that will not allow signs of domestic problems to go undetected.