Rihanna and Twitter-CEO Jack Dorsey have teamed up to provide support for victims of domestic abuse affected by COVID-19 restrictions. The singer and Fenty founder has donated $2.1 million (USD) to the Los Angeles Mayor’s Fund, providing shelter, counselling and food for up to 90 victims over the next five months.
With the coronavirus pandemic forcing people into their homes, rates of domestic violence have seen a dramatic spike worldwide. Earlier this week, the BBC reported a 25% spike in reported domestic violence cases, with the Daily Mail also reporting that, on a national level, 150,000 are predicted to die at the hands of domestic violence throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
With global rates of domestic violence continuing to increase during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rihanna and Jack Dorsey’s monumental donation should be a call to action to protect those most at risk.
Rihanna and Dorsey’s donation was specifically targeted to the ongoing issue of overcrowding currently being witnessed in domestic violence shelters across Los Angeles. It has been reported that the LA Housing Authority has had to turn away over 90 victims per week from the beginning of the city’s lockdown, due to an already strained support network.
Australia, in particular, is notorious for its lack of funding for domestic violence support services. The Liberal Government’s 2019/2020 budget completely cut vital funding from frontline organisations, with many such as Women’s Safety NSW having to fight tooth and nail to regain resources. Coronavirus-induced lockdowns have escalated the horrific conditions that victims of domestic violence are subject to, and already struggling support services are currently unable to keep up with demand.
As per the ABC, one third of 80 surveyed frontline workers reported that victims were reporting situations of violence and abuse related specifically to coronavirus.
“It’s going to be massive, there’s no two ways about it. We’re already seeing the start of it, but it’s only going to get worse,” Women’s Safety NSW CEO Hayley Foster told ABC’s The Drum.
“We know [domestic violence] is characterised by coercive control: by isolating, monitoring, surveilling their partners.”
CEO of social services provider Wayss, Liz Thomas reported that the amount of police requests for Wayss’ services has nearly doubled in the last seven days, with the organisation having received six reports of men using the coronavirus to threaten and coerce women in the past week.
“Perpetrators have actually used COVID-19 as a form of abuse, telling their partner that they have the virus therefore they can’t leave the house”
“Inviting people into the house where a woman is self-isolating, saying that the visitor has COVID-19 and he’s going to infect them.”
Earlier this week, the SBS reported that while support services are seeing a nation-wide increase in calls, those working in domestic-violence services in predominately migrant populated communities say the lines have gone completely quiet, which is even more worrying.