Pandemic leaves Colombia’s victims of domestic violence at mercy of their victimizers

The coronavirus may have deprived tens of thousands of victims of domestic and sexual violence of support in Colombia despite increased government efforts.

The arrival of the coronavirus in March and subsequent lockdown measures meant to curb contagion were accompanied by a steep drop in reports of domestic violence, according to statistics by the Medical Examiner’s Office.

The government embarked on a major campaign to facilitate the reporting of domestic and sexual violence after Vice-Prosecutor General Martha Janeth warned of a surge in femicides in early April, but apparently without effect.

While reported homicides and suicides remained relatively unchanged, reports of domestic violence and rape dropped steeply, according to the Medical Examiner’s monthly statistics.

Reported violence

The gradual reactivation of social life was also accompanied by a gradual increase in reports of domestic violence and rape, but continued to be lower than last year as underreporting presumably persists.

Women’s rights organization Mujer Despierta (Wake Up Woman) received 500% more calls for assistance during this period, according to the organization’s spokeswoman Lorena Garcia. “It’s incredible,” the activist told public radio network Radio Nacional in late November.

In the southwestern Valle del Cauca province, femicides went up 41% from 22 between January and October until 31 in the same period this year, the district prosecution told Cali newspaper El Pais.

According to the United Nations, this obeyed to a trend throughout Latin America where the international organization registered a 31.5% increase in femicides.

The help line for domestic violence promoted by the government also saw a 99% increase in calls, according to Radio Nacional, but these reports apparently didn’t result in medical exams with the exception of fatal violence.

The government’s increased efforts to reach victims of domestic violence and sexual violence during the pandemic have apparently left tens of thousands of abuse women and children without help.

More than six women and girls every hour suffered domestic abuse last year. More than 75% of the 26,000 rape victims reported last year were girls under 18.

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