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Survivors of domestic abuse use creative means to get help during stay at home order

9 months 3 weeks 2 days ago Friday, April 03 2020 Apr 3, 2020 April 03, 2020 8:02 AM April 03, 2020 in News
Source: CNN
Photo: Naples Florida Weekly

While stay at home orders are helping to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus, they introduce a new difficulty for survivors of domestic abuse. 

CNN reports that some women have come up with creative ways to stay safe. 

For example, on Sunday, a woman walked into a pharmacy in the French city of Nancy, one of the few public places still open after the government imposed a nationwide lockdown.

But the woman wasn't there for medicine; she was there to tell the pharmacist that her partner had abused her. Soon after, the woman's spouse was arrested by police.

The woman was following advice suggested by the French government.

France, inspired by a similar scheme in Spain, has started telling survivors to head to drugstores. If they can't talk openly in the store, they can simply say the codeword "mask 19" to the pharmacist behind the counter and this lets the Pharmacist know the woman is in an abusive situation and needs help. 

The woman in Nancy was the first to seek help since the government launched the initiative last week, the spokesperson for Marlene Schiappa, the French minister for equality, told CNN.

As lockdown measures across Europe get stricter, charities and police forces are raising the alarm over a potential spike in domestic violence. Being confined at home with their abuser makes victims more vulnerable, because there is no escape. 

Christophe Castaner, the French Interior Minister, said there had been a 36% increase in police intervention for cases of domestic violence in Paris after the lockdown measures were enacted. The government has announced that it will pay for 20,000 nights in hotel rooms for victims of domestic violence and open pop-up counseling centers at supermarkets.

There are worrying reports from other countries, too.

"There has always been gender violence, but this crisis makes it all worse," Simona Ammerata, who works at the Lucha y Siesta women's shelter in Rome, Italy told CNN.

One young woman who contacted Lucha y Siesta recently said her partner of four years had always been controlling and abusive but had become much worse during the lockdown. "The dynamic of violence in the house is getting very serious," said Ammerata. "She asked him to leave and he doesn't want to. She says she has no places to go."

The public health crisis has overwhelmed Italy and local authorities have been forced to redirect much of their resources to fighting the virus. "The court procedures are working slower than usual because most people are working from home," Ammerata added. "The fear is that the legal decrees to protect women won't be put in place in time." 

In East Baton Rouge, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome addressed the issue shortly after the governor issued a statewide stay at home at home directive, notifying residents facing potentially abusive situations of their options for assistance. 

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