As Puerto Rico was trying to curb the spread of COVID19 and the population was placed on multiple lockdowns, forcing residents to stay at home the domestic violence rate has risen 37% from an already staggering number in years prior.
In Puerto Rico, 65% of femicides in 2019 occurred in the victim’s residence. The home, if you share it with your abuser, turns into a place of risk.
According to the World Health Organization, globally, one in three women experience physical or sexual violence. During times of humanitarian emergencies, the risk of gender-based violence grows due to increased stress and feelings of powerlessness, scarcity of basic provisions and destruction of social networks.
If a woman has a bruise and has to go to work, that renders visibility and causes an alarm to the issue at hand. By being confined to the house, the possibility of abuse being visible reduces and the security risk increases.
The government has failed to implement plans to address the social problems caused by the measures taken during and emergency. Domestic violence shelters are usually not on a government’s radar during crises and provided little to no resources. Just like COVID19, domestic violence is a matter of high priority and a matter of public health.
More than 30 organizations led by Coordinatora Paz para las Mujeras demanded that then Governor Wanda Vasquez Garced take action to address gender based violence. It was only recently that the governor of Puerto Rico has declared a state of emergency. The reason - gender violence. He says violence against women has caused too much harm on the island for too long. Governor Pedro Pierluisi's declaration is a victory for feminist groups that have spent years calling for this move.
With pandemic restrictions easing up, the ripple effect still remains as resources and funding continue to be limited.