Tag Archives: shelter-in-place

Why Men are Angry and Women Abused

What was startling about the two domestic violence (DV) videos that aired recently on TV and on social media was not just their disturbing subject matter featuring battered women, but the frequency with which such content appears on the news during this pandemic.

On TV recently, a PSA created by a DV support group shows a woman raising her folded fist on a video call with a friend, silently signaling an appeal for help without raising the suspicions of a man behind her in the room.

And in a real life incident in the UK reported by the BBC, an injured woman used a silent code (55) on a 999 emergency call to alert authorities of an attack where she was unable to speak.

Both videos reflect the rise in DV incidents this year in the aftermath of COVID lockdowns, which have forced vulnerable women into dangerous proximity with abusive partners.  As more people stay at home due to the pandemic, the risk of domestic violence (sexual, verbal and physical abuse) is increasing say experts.

In a recent report, The New England Journal of Medicine described domestic violence or intimate partner violence (IPV) as a ‘pandemic within a pandemic’. According to their research, many IPV victims are trapped with their abusers by stay-at-home orders intended to protect the public from the spread of infection by COVID19.  As a result, across the US, states are reporting a spike in domestic violence cases during the pandemic, creating a national public health crisis.

An NIH study says that “In Portland there was a 22% increase in arrests related to domestic violence, Jefferson County Alabama experiencing a 27% increase in domestic violence calls during March 2020 compared to March 2019, and New York City experiencing a 10% increase in domestic violence calls during March 2020 compared to March 2019.”

The National Domestic Violence Hotline tracked a significant surge in calls from victims between March through May, reporting a 9% increase in total calls received, with 6210 callers citing COVID 19 as the reason for an escalation in abuse. Another study in May reported a 10.2 percent increase in domestic violence calls to the police for service.

But though domestic-violence hotlines expected more demand for services as shelter-in-place mandates were enforced, DV organizations say that in some parts of the country, “the number of calls dropped by more than 50%” as victims fear drawing attention to themselves in their households. Experts believe that the lockdown has prevented victims from safely connecting with services during isolation, not that IPV rates have dropped during the hidden pandemic.

So how do DV victims navigate out of dangerous situations when trapped at home, and send out an SOS without saying a word?

Nowadays, as most interactions with other people occur online, support groups are devising strategies for survivors to ask for help that do not leave a digital trace. In the videos that aired, DV victims employ tactics that demonstrate hand signals and options that are safe to use. Certainly, increased public messaging and media coverage are one way to take IPV out of the shadows and show victims how to reach out and ask for help without being afraid.

But why has COVID19 exacerbated the DV crisis and what does it say about the culture we live in?

At a briefing hoisted by EMS on December 4th, health advocates shed light on various factors that have contributed to the DV crisis during the pandemic, and the DV questions that need to be asked.

Dr. Ravi Chandra

“One in three women and one in ten men experience domestic abuse in their lifetime,” stated Bay Area psychiatrist Dr. Ravi Chandra. He explained that the anger and abuse that drives DV and other forms of violent behavior, derives from a culture of abusive power that’s reflected in our society. We live in a world said Chandra, where the racial trauma of George Floyd’s murder and the BLM movement for example, have an underlying aggravating cause that’s rooted in strains of a ‘narcissistic, self-centered, tribalistic personality and culture.’ These characteristics manifest for example, in political leaders or some members of law enforcement who wield ‘power, suffer from ‘self-centered delusion’, and employ ‘subordination, silencing and scapegoating’ to inflict trauma and retain power.

“Abusive power is given far too much license and is yet hidden in the shadows,” stated Chandra. The individualistic, antagonistic, aggressive, self-centered masculine power that Chandra describes is exemplified for instance, in the police officer who knelt on a dying George Floyd, while the legal recourse that shields police officers, is indicative of the entitled ‘wink and a nod’ directed towards law enforcement, when they use influence and the justice system to protect abusive officers with impunity.

These incidents are “a metaphor for the abusive household,” said Chandra, in which family members ‘look the other way’ rather than deal with the inappropriate behavior and assault that IPV victims endure from a parent, spouse or caregiver. We are all affected by a society which values money and power, especially masculine power, as more important than a relationship, said Chandra, adding that when compassion and common humanity become subordinated and under assault, it becomes difficult for DV victims ‘incarcerated’ in a household’ to fight their way out.

“COVID underscores risk factors for domestic violence,” noted Chandra. The pandemic has exposed the effects of living in an abusive household and the psychological experience of victims subjected to devaluing, bullying, threats, intimidation, coercion, gaslighting, dehumanization, calls for violence and more. Isolation encourages opportunities for psychological aggression and control, added Chandra. Furthermore, financial  stressors – frustrations over job loss, and income insecurity are risk factors that have contributed to the rise in DV cases.

Chandra also warned that DV victims have suffered setbacks during the Trump Presidency. In 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) narrowed the definition of domestic violence to only physical  aggression, ruling out psychological aggression. And, the administration has not reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act which has been partially credited for a 60% drop in violence against IPV victims between 1996-2010.

While women’s rights should be upheld, Chandra urged that men be given space to ‘come to terms’ with their own histories of childhood trauma and abuse. “Racism has disempowered and devalued BIPOC men in America,” Chandra stated, and this is an added psychological stress that needs examination.

Chandra suggested the need to deconstruct racism as well as masculine entitlement to power, to better understand how male vulnerability and ‘a friendship crisis among men’ makes them more isolated than women, and unable to comprehend how mutual relationships work. Domestic violence stems from this disconnection he explained.

For now though, it will take more than hand signals and heart searching for victims to unravel and emerge from the twisted knot of domestic violence. But help is at hand from advocates via the sources listed below.

As Chandra hopes, “As a psychiatrist and humanist, I hope that we can all work to create an equitable society where all have access to the all – important human journeys of identity, belonging and wellness.”


Meera Kymal is the contributing editor at India Currents

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available to assist victims of intimate partner violence 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling or texting (800) 799-SAFE (7233).

https://www.thehotline.org/wp-content/uploads/media/2020/09/The-Hotline-COVID-19-60-Day-Report.pdf

Links to SCC District Attorney’s Office Victim Service Unit brochures in multiple languages: https://www.sccgov.org/sites/da/publications/DistrictAttorneyBrochures/Pages/default.aspx

Family Justice Center Location in San Jose, SCC: https://www.sccgov.org/sites/da/VictimServices/FamilyJusticeCenter/Pages/FJC-SJ.aspx

Family Justice Center Location in Morgan Hill, SCC: https://www.sccgov.org/sites/da/VictimServices/FamilyJusticeCenter/Pages/FJC-MH.aspx

https://eastwindezine.com/mosf-vol-15-5-queer-and-black-asian-and-young-drama-del-rosario-tchoupitoulas-and-ocean-vuong/

 

 

Survive COVID-19 with a Cabin Fever Playbook

What seemed improbable a month ago is today a shared global reality. The steady unravelling of COVID-19 has forced us all – across generations and geographies, to stay home. Morale is low and stress levels are high as we work from home, grieve for and worry about those afflicted, homeschool our children, and struggle to make ends meet in a crumbling economy.

While challenges of confinement and the lack of routine have pushed me out of my comfort zone, strangely, this period has also been a deeply introspective one. I have had teaching moments that have helped me prioritize and gain perspective to effectively navigate these difficult and fluid times.

LEARNING TO ROLL WITH AMBIGUITY
The steepest learning curve for me has been accepting unpredictability and rolling with it. I find myself:

  • Improvising. For example, when I couldn’t find any sanitizers anywhere, I was forced to make my own. My favorite recipe is mixing ¼ tsp of bleach with 4 cups of water.
    When getting my daily yoga stretches seemed impossible, I resorted to CosmicKids Yoga. Now, I get a yoga workout with my preschooler in tow since it engages kids through story and movement.
  • Getting creative. I buy whatever fresh produce is readily and easily available and turn to the internet for inspiration. I’ve dug out my formally forgotten cookbooks and am trying my hand at new recipes.
  • Relaxing standards. With everyone homebound, there’s more mess, less tidiness and meals are often prepared on the fly. But that’s to be expected. Once this realization struck, I recalibrated and lowered standards. This helped me stay calm and centered. Beds don’t always get made, but the sheets are clean. Meals may be prepared on the fly, but they’re healthy. I learned not to sweat it. There’s enough to worry about as is.


STAYING ORGANIZED

I am by no means a planner. But, when I saw the panic around me at our local grocery store, I was jolted into action:

  • To create a weekly meal roster to plan grocery runs.
  • I stocked up on non-perishables. Fortunately, being accustomed to eating and cooking Indian food, between atta (whole wheat), rice, Sabudana (tapioca), pasta, flour, sooji (semolina), besan (chickpea flour), poha (flattened rice), bread, and a few packs of frozen rotis and naans, I had an array of grain options. My new favorite comfort food now is a simple and wholesome Sabudana khichri.
  • To bolster our supply of vitamins, ginger tea, and citrus fruits to keep up our immunity.


COMMUNICATING

At a time when schedules are unpredictable with no school and everyone working from home, things don’t always fall in place as seamlessly as they used to. As a result, I found it vital to effectively communicate household rules and expectations.

  • We have a written daily routine and each person is assigned household chores and responsibilities. That way everyone’s on the same page and knows when and how to chip in. This has provided the much-needed predictability in times of uncertainty and has also fostered teamwork.
  • I am also making the most of this opportunity to double down on conversing in my native language (Hindi) with my preschooler and second grader. I can already see some promising results.

MAKING TIME FOR LITTLE THINGS
I find myself making more time for family. A relatively slower pace of life is allowing more time to connect with each other as well as with extended family and community members. More than before, I see us using FT, Skype and Zoom to connect with each other. Most importantly, I’m enjoying simple activities like:

  • Walking. It is Spring after all! If parks are out of bounds, we take family walks. These aren’t long. Sometimes squeezing in a short walk between meetings or a break is good enough. It’s refreshing to marvel at blooming flowers and seek joy in the many signs of new life and activity around us.
  • Playing. We make up silly games, play board games, word games, card games, Simon says, red light-green light, do messy art projects; all of which fuel our creativity and bring us closer as a family.
  • Baking. Instead of composting that overripe banana, we make banana bread. We roll dough and cut out shapes when we make atta ladoos and atta cookies respectively.


LAUGHING

For some time, I had replaced humor with fear, anxiety and stress. One day, my eight-year-old asked me, “Why do graveyards have a fence around them?” Looking at my confused expression, he promptly replied, “Because people are dying to get in!” With all the dread unfolding, it felt like a scene from a dark comedy movie. It lightened the mood and we all had a good laugh.

I realized that it’s ok to laugh even in the face of adversity. Given our current reality, it’s easy to forget to let some humor into our lives. Besides, doesn’t laughter reduce stress-generated cortisol that kills our immune system? So, why not laugh, boost our immunity and flatten the curve!

To get in some laughs every day:

  • I have intentionally added joke books to our children’s daily reading stack. Kids love jokes and rarely miss an opportunity to share something that tickles them.
  • In the evening, my husband and I carve out some time to watch something funny. It’s a wonderful way to relax, connect and laugh together as adults.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a trying time, stretching our mental and physical capacity to endure fear and uncertainty. Yet, it’s heartening to see folks reach out to provide services like grocery runs or offer free in-home entertainment materials like family games, books and DVDs. We’re connecting with family, friends and our extended community, to make sure we’re all okay. Our children are virtually interacting with cousins, grandparents and friends. I’m reminded of Gilda Radner, who once wisely said – “Life is about…taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

We’re certainly trying our best!

Nidhi Kirpal Jayadevan’s pre-kids’ life was dedicated to the complex field of Communication Sciences. After choosing to be a fulltime mother, reading and playing with her high energy boys has been a fascinating journey. It has (re)kindled in her a sense of wonder in all things small. She constantly sees the world through little eyes, applying simple learnings to deepen life’s meaning for herself and her family.

Edited by Meera Kymal, contributing editor at India Currents

Photo by Jyotirmoy Gupta on Unsplash

Back to Square One

March 27, 2020. Today is the eleventh day since the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. In China, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus, the disease appears to be under control, but today the US is the new epicenter of the pandemic with more than 81321 known cases.

There is a massive disruption in daily life. More than a third of Americans are staying home. Offices, factories, schools, churches, bars and restaurants are closed. There is no revelry at the beaches now. In the aftermath of the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, infections have soared in Louisiana. Even the national parks are closing. Italy, Spain, and the UK are overwhelmed by the toll the disease is taking. Boris Johnson the UK PM has tested positive today. In India the entire country is under a strict shelter-in-place.

The huddled masses are reinventing how to live in their homes. Everything from head to toe and all surfaces are sanitized. Millions are soaping, scrubbing and rinsing their hands to wash away traces of germs. Every time I wash, I chant the Gayatri mantra but the image of Lady Macbeth’s constant obsession – washing the blood off her hands – flashes in my mind.

My eight-year-old grandson, Ayush, has been home since the first week of March. He has completely broken free of his school routine. He has immersed himself in cricket and tennis with his playmate Bahadur and did not come indoors to FaceTime with me. But now he has lost his playmate. Bahadur, like so many other Nepalis, has gone back to his village and the borders have closed. When I ask him about Bahadur, Ayush has a wistful look in his eyes and a hollowness in his voice. We stopped playing monopoly, chess, cards, or other board games because the most important element of play for Ayush was his interaction with Bahadur and teaching him the nuances of the game.

Images of Rabindranath Tagore’s Kabuliwallah and Mini float up in my memory and a lump forms in my throat. I hope that Bahadur has reached home safely and his family members are well.

Now, Ayush plays for ten to fifteen minutes with me and those are the brightest moments of my day. It’s usually late at night for him and mid-morning for me. He has downloaded games on his iPad and we play Words with Friends, Chess, Ludo, and Snakes and Ladders.

He is a patient teacher when it comes to computers because he can download and install almost any application at lightning speed. I move ponderously, watchful about privacy and security issues.

Yesterday we played Saanp-Seedhi. This ancient game originated in India and was originally known as Moksha Patam. Today it is a worldwide classic – Snakes and Ladders. We used to play this game as a family with my parents. Every time I play with Ayush, reminiscent childhood laughter spills through my veins. As per Eckhart Tolle, the world is not here to make you happy but to make you conscious. I think that the only exception to this truth is the joy of playing with children.

In the thirteenth century, a saint called Gyandev invented Moksha Patam with lessons in morality ladders representing virtues – asceticism, generosity, faith, reliability, and knowledge. Snakes were vices: anger, lust, pride, and theft. To win the game was to achieve salvation. In his honor, it was also called Gyan Chauper.

In the original game, ladders were fewer than snakes indicating that the path of goodness was more arduous. Snakes were plentiful, showing that our life path was replete with bad elements.

When the Brits took it to England it became popular as Snakes and Ladders and also acquired Victorian connotations. Generally, every player tries their best to roll the dice so that they can race quickly from 0-100 on the 8 x 8 square, red and yellow gridded board which originally had 12 snakes and 5 ladders. Children love it because they think of it as a game of luck but still try hard to roll the right number on the die. They are jubilant, shimmying up the ladders and tiptoeing silently by the snakes. But invariably squeals of disappointment erupt when the snakes swallow their tokens. They also learn that the ladders are not straddling the squares so they have to pay close attention to which square the leg of the ladder touches.

This game of probability is not simplistic but embedded in the game is the innate duality of life. The strong ladders sooner or later balance out the surreptitious serpents. I think of the sinuous snakes as unavoidable incumbrances in our spiritual growth. They remind me of irrational behaviors by people who interrupt conversations, spill vitriol on social media, or blatantly scoff at social distancing even though people are dying of COVID-19.

The worst snakes are strategically positioned on the 99th square. Many human interactions, especially in these gloomy times of the pandemic, remind me of the energy of the 99th square. When I look at all the anger, anguish, and frustration of health care workers facing increasing patient loads and vanishing global supply chains, I am alarmed. Our failings have culminated in a humongous COVID -19 serpent poised on the 99th square to swallow frail humanity. I wonder if this is an important life lesson teaching us that if we hold tight to the five ladders of virtue and do not take life on this planet for granted, we might survive. Now that we are all stuck on the 99th square, let’s look inward and try to reinvent better habits. This may be our last chance to roll the dice.


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner. She drew the featured image as a symbol of her love for her father.

Edited by Meera Kymal, Contributing Editor at India Currents