In 2010 I did a TED talk entitled Dare to Disturb the Sound of Silence. I recently had an occasion to view the presentation and realized how relevant it is today because of the COVID-19 virus. The original Ted talk can be viewed on my website at bertiesimmons.com. I have become concerned about the significant increase in domestic violence due to our present state of isolation. While I discussed violence as one of the side-effects of extended isolation, watching the talk made me even more acutely aware of the problems we face today, especially as it relates to violence within our homes. This was one of the critical issues discussed in my book, Whispers of Hope, the Story of My Life.
Conditions created by the present pandemic have caused family violence (domestic violence, child abuse, and pet abuse) to flourish. Necessary restrictions implemented in an attempt to control the spread of the disease could be expected to result in such extreme actions. The United Nations called for urgent action to combat the worldwide surge in domestic violence. “I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres posted on Twitter. Clearly, the governments failed to consider this potentially dangerous environment when the “stay-at-home” order was enforced. This order provided a strong opportunity for an abuser to act. Isolation, along with contributing factors such as financial insecurity, stress, and uncertainty, has led to increasing accounts of intimate partner homicides around the globe. It has been said that confinement is a breeding ground for domestic violence. This has been true in countries throughout the world and some governments are working to create effective ways to deal with this serious problem.
It is common knowledge that domestic violence cases in Harris County have increased since the stay-at-home order, and two people were killed in suspected domestic violence cases. In one case a wife stabbed her husband to death and in the other, a man shot his wife to death. Police Chief Art Acevedo reported that the number of domestic violence calls requesting service from the Houston Police Department increased 6% this month when compared to last month.
In addition to domestic violence, I am deeply concerned about other health issues related to isolation such as depression. It is well documented that individuals who are isolated and have little contact with others, develop significant health issues such as heart problems. This is especially true for elderly individuals or those who live alone.
I feel that it is our moral responsibility to lend support to others by making regular contact with those who may be experiencing any trauma as a result of the pandemic. This can be done on social media, by making personal phone calls, sending notes in the mail, or having food delivered. We all need to be more aware of early signs that may be red flags of trouble brewing and then take appropriate action to provide support. A sense of caring is important in all situations. Sincere empathy goes a long way. Let’s make it happen!