The French government has pledged to move victims of domestic violence into hotels while the country remains on coronavirus lockdown. It’s one of a few new measures intended to help people isolated with their abusers as reports of in-home assaults spike.
France’s Gender Equality Minister, Marlène Schiappa, announced Monday that, in addition to subsidizing 20,000 nights of hotel accommodations, the government would also set up about 20 counseling centers in grocery stores. Since March 17, the French have only been allowed outside to make necessary grocery and pharmacy runs, to seek medical attention, or for exercise. During lockdown, Time reports, Parisian police have experienced a 36 percent uptick in calls concerning domestic violence, while the rest of the country has seen that rate rise by 32 percent. Two people have been murdered in the intervening two weeks, and stay-at-home orders aren’t slated to lift until April 15 at the earliest.
France already has a high domestic-abuse rate, particularly compared to other European countries, and according to Reuters, Schiappa has previously identified the current situation as a “breeding ground for violence.” Right now, she is reportedly looking “to multiply the points of contact with women. As it’s difficult for women to get out, we want to make sure that support systems can go to women.”
In addition to setting up counseling centers and providing for emergency housing, the French government also put €1 million ($1.1 million) toward organizations combating domestic abuse, to better equip them for escalated demand. And according to Le Parisien, the country is also using a system introduced in Spain’s Canary Islands, where victims can alert a pharmacist to domestic violence by asking for a “Mask 19,” a code word indicating they should call the police.
Of course, this problem is not confined to France: Domestic-violence reports are surging in many countries where people are cloistered inside due to the coronavirus. With about 80 percent of U.S. residents currently being asked or ordered to stay home, police departments nationwide are fielding dramatic surges in domestic-abuse reports. Echoing Schiappa’s sentiment, Barbara Paradiso — director of the Center on Domestic Violence at the University of Colorado Denver — recently told Mother Jones that the current conditions feel “almost like a petri dish for the levels of violence to increase within family relationships.”