Victims Of Domestic Violence Using Code Words At Pharmacies To Escape Abuse During Coronavirus Lockdown

Pharmacy with people walking outside at night.
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In France, victims suffering from domestic violence have been seeking help at pharmacies, reported CNN. The scheme was enacted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced countries to take unprecedented measures to prevent the virus from spreading, including nationwide lockdowns. Many victims have found themselves locked in their homes with their abusers.

The European country took steps to protect victims suffering from domestic violence after Spain enacted a similar scheme, telling victims to head to pharmacies to seek help. Pharmacies are one of the only businesses still open during the lockdown. As many victims are too afraid or unable to call the police, seeking help from pharmacists gives them a way out.

Victims do not have to talk openly about their situation in the drugstore, only needing to say the words “mask 19” for the pharmacist to understand the problem and take action. In France, the first woman to seek help went to a pharmacy in Nancy, around a week after the government announced the initiative. After the pharmacist reported the situation to the police, her spouse was arrested.

France’s capital city, Paris, has seen a 36 percent increase in police intervention for domestic violence cases since the nationwide lockdown went into effect in March. In addition to the pharmacy initiative, the government will pay for 20,000 nights in hotel rooms for victims of domestic violence.

A woman's back with the words "Love Shouldn't Hurt."
  Sydney Sims / Unsplash

France is not the only country to see an increase in domestic violence cases since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Authorities have warned of a potential increase in domestic violence all around Europe as crisis situations often increase violent and aggressive behavior.

Australia has reported the most searches for domestic violence-related issues since the crisis began — a whopping 75 percent increase — compared to the previous five years. As a result, the government has put together a $92 million relief package for victims of domestic and family abuse.

British charity Refuge has stated that one of the biggest problems that victims face is not being able to report the abuse while shut in their homes. Sandra Horley, Refuge’s chief executive, spoke out about the issue.

“We know that ordinarily the window of opportunity for women with abusive partners to make a call and seek help is often very limited. Now, it is likely that window has become even smaller.”

Director of a women’s shelter network Delphine Beauvais has also commented on the situation, stating that the lockdown makes it even harder than normal for victims to escape their abusive relationships.

“In a normal situation, leaving the house and the abuser is already hard. Today, this has quadrupled, because you can’t go to your friends or family because the government decree says you can’t go… leaving now is very, very hard. Harder than ever.”