Home strife up under lockdown

Home strife up under lockdown

The family counselling centre at the police commissioner’s office receives a record number of calls from women at the receiving end of assault and harassment at home

In April, just a few days after the lockdown was announced, a 26-year-old working professional called the women’s helpline at the city police commissioner’s office seeking protection from her abusive husband and in-laws.

She was working from home and her in-laws had locked her up in a room and starving her.  She said the incident had made her realise she was living with an abusive husband.

The counsellors at Parihar Family Counselling Centre/Vanitha Sahayavani, counselled the young lady, who said that she didn’t want to raise any police complaint.

She was afraid that the abuse would escalate further. The counsellors are doing regular follow-up counselling to make sure the victim is reassured.  

Cases related to domestic violence have topped the list of calls received at Parihar Family Counselling Centre, the Vanitha Sahayavani or women’s helpline of the Bengaluru City Police in the past two months.

In March, this year, the centre received 70 calls seeking help against domestic violence. The number rose to 132 in April.

Rani Shetty, Parihar in-charge, told Metrolife, “When we opened on April 6, we received a call related to Covid-19. The trend slowly started to change and we started getting calls from women abused by their husbands. In some instances, we even had men calling us to seek our help to make their wives see reason.”

Not in writing

Women couldn’t come out and families were locked in. In some cases, counsellors went to bail women out of stressful situations.

Many women would call only to seek counselling and were unwilling to register cases against their abusive husbands. They feared being tortured even more. “In some instances, our counsellors went to the victim’s house and made arrangements for the couple to stay separately so that the woman could be safe,” explains Rani.

Covid restrictions

Face-to-face counselling is not permitted because of the pandemic, so talking jointly to the victim and the abuser on the phone was challenging.

Sandhya Rani, counsellor with Parihar , says calls related to domestic violence come from women between 25 and 45 years. “Violence against women has increased,” says Sandhya.
  Among the cases that Sandhya handled was of a family where the husband would spend all the money on drinking and gambling. “In this case, he would vent his frustration on his wife. Fortunately, the boy’s parents were on the girl’s side,” adds Sandhya.

In another case from Rajajinagar, a man physically tortured his wife in front of their two handicapped children. “The neighbours called us and we alerted the police station. The man was warned and let off,” she said.  

Distress calls

The Suraksha app of the Bengaluru city police has also been receiving distress calls from women seeking help related to domestic violence. Divya Sara Thomas, deputy commissioner of police (City Armed Reserve, Headquarters), who was in charge of Covid-related passes, calls and complaints says, “The app alerts police as well as your trusted contacts. You receive a call within minutes and a Hoysala vehicle is dispatched.”

The city’s 109 pink Hoysalas with women staff were put on high alert. “They were directed to immediately attend to such distress calls,” adds Divya.

The lockdown has put the victims and the abusers in close proximity with no escape, and that is why distress calls have gone up. “However, in Bengaluru, seeking help from the police is not difficult.  Also, during this period, the public have abundantly used Hoysala for all sorts of emergencies,” says Divya.

In extreme violence cases, the police have made arrangements for the couples to live separately, says Divya.

Cases of alcoholics beating up their wives and children were also reported during the lockdown.

April numbers
2018: 67
2019: 102
2020: 132 
(Domestic violence cases reported to the women’s helpline at the police commissioner’s office)

WHO says
A World Health Organisation study says intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence. During health emergencies, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, violence against women tends to increase. 
 
Cheating revealed
A senior police officer says several domestic violence cases were reported from posh areas.
“In one case, a woman living in the Cantonment area said her husband was cheating on her. She saw pictures and messages from more than one woman on his phone. She threatened to commit suicide,” says the officer.
The police counselled her and helped her stay away from her husband.
“We made arrangements for her to relocate to her parents’ house as she refused to live with her husband. She was so stressed 
out and upset. We also got a counsellor to help her,” says the officer.
The woman didn’t want to register a police complaint as word would spread to her neighbours and relatives. “She wanted to keep it within the family,” he adds.

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