When the Covid-19 pandemic swept across Europe, many countries chose to go into total lockdown. But with this sudden halt in ordinary life, other problems were triggered in its wake. Amongst them, governments and charities were quick to notice the rapid increase in domestic violence. Several weeks after lockdown began, what is the real situation? What prevention and warning systems have been put in place?

Couples are now forced to live in isolation for almost 24 hours a day. This scenario is conducive to the increase in domestic abuse cases, a situation that victims’ aid associations feared from the outset.

The Principality, spared by domestic violence?

Across Europe, governments deployed preventive measures and alert protocols very quickly. However, the number of acts of abuse remains, at present, disparate from one country to another. Monaco was already little affected by the phenomenon.

“In 2019, statistics show that the police had recorded 31 cases of violence. One hundred thirteen women were admitted to hospital. Still, these may not have necessarily been residents in Monaco,” informs Céline Cottalorda, advisor to Minister of State and the Ministerial representative for the protection of women’s rights. It is still too high a figure in light of the severity of the situation, but very encouraging for a population of 38,000.

“We’re talking about small ratios,” she explains. “Obviously we must take into account the violence that goes unreported and the situations that escape the attention of the authorities, but proportions remain low.”

But has lockdown given free rein to potential aggressors? Apparently not. Only three situations of minor violence have been recorded during lockdown. Of these three cases, no complaints were filed.

“The social service, the police and the charities working in Monaco have noted a drop in calls.”

Strengthening of prevention systems

“It is not because we don’t have many cases that we shouldn’t take action,” stresses Cottalorda. The Government has reinforced the measures already in place before lockdown. In addition to the pre-existing emergency number for victims and protection services, the Government have put in place some alternative means, mirroring those in France.

For example, the Government created an emergency email address as it is not necessarily possible to phone the authorities while in such close proximity to your aggressor. Pharmacists have also proposed a helping hand to victims, who can discreetly make them aware of a situation in the pharmacy.

The police remain at the constant disposal of victims and the general population too. “If a woman feels as if she is in danger, she can alert the police or simply talk to the police officer on the corner of her street,” highlighted Cottalorda.

Exacerbated violence everywhere else

Despite the measures taken in many European countries, domestic violence has surged everywhere. In particular, there has been a 35% increase in France, with similar increases witnessed in Italy, Spain and the UK.

“I urge all governments to make the prevention of domestic violence a priority in their plans to combat Covid-19 (…) We have seen a horrible rise in domestic violence,” warned UN Secretary-General António Guterres in early April.

So why has the Principality been spared? There are several possible answers. The limited area of its territory, the significant police presence and already reliable prevention systems make for a better context to avoid such a rise.

“It seems that violence concerns all socio-economic categories,” she said. “In Monaco, we have nearly 140 nationalities, and violence affects all our communities, cultures and economic groups at some level. However, alcoholism can be an aggravating factor in violence.”