The other epidemic: JK Rowling, Avon fight domestic abuse amid COVID-19 lockdowns
Anti-domestic violence advocate and Avon Ambassador for Jewelery Ruffa Gutierrez at the recent opening of Avon's branch model in Taft; 'Harry Potter' author JK Rowling
Avon Philippines/Released; Bennett Raglin/Getty Images North America/AFP
The other epidemic: JK Rowling, Avon fight domestic abuse amid COVID-19 lockdowns
Jan Milo Severo (Philstar.com) - May 4, 2020 - 4:31pm

MANILA, Philippines — "Harry Potter" author JK Rowling donated one million pounds ($1.25 million) to domestic abuse victims and the homeless during the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

In her Twitter account, JK announced that she will split the donation between the charities Crisis and Refuge, which help the homeless and victims of domestic violence respectively.

“Today's the 22nd anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, but I'm going to be honest and say that it feels inappropriate to talk about fictional deaths today. Too many people are losing loved ones in the real world,” she said.

“So on this anniversary of a great wizarding victory, I'm thinking of the people who're out there doing their jobs to protect us and our way of life. I have 3 key workers in my immediate family, and like all such relatives, I'm torn between pride and anxiety,” she added.

The British writer said that in honor of the Battle of Hogwarts, she will donate half of the one million pounds to Crisis and half to Refuge.

“As ever in a crisis of this sort, the poorest and most vulnerable are hit hardest, so in honour of the Battle of Hogwarts, I'll be making a donation of £1m, half of which will go to https://crisis.org.uk, who're helping the homeless during the pandemic and half of which will go to https://refuge.org.uk, because we know that domestic abuse has, sadly, increased hugely during the lockdown,” she said.

Meanwhile, Avon Foundation recently launched an initiative to raise awareness on the “silent epidemic” exacerbated by isolation during the global COVID-19 crisis which is domestic violence, an unintended consequence of the isolation measures needed to combat coronavirus where vulnerable women and children are trapped at home with abusers and are unable to reach out for help.

“The Isolated Not Alone Campaign aims to respond to the reported spike in the demand for front-line services to rescue and provide refuge to women and children at risk. Avon Foundation has also, therefore, extended a grant of P1 million for each of Avon Philippines’ 4 local partner NGOs, Luna Legal Resource Center for Women and Children, Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation (GWAVE), Women’s Care Center Inc. (WCCI) and ING Makababaying Aksyon (IMA) Foundation to support these organizations and encourage everyone to reach out to them should they know of anyone who needs this kind of help,” the foundation said in a statement sent to Philstar.com.

The brand recently donated P500,000 to actress Angel Locsin’s #UniTentWeStandPH project.

The company also supports Angel Locsin’s UniTentWeStandPH, a fundraising organization which advocates to alleviate the overcrowding in hospitals and helping the frontliners, medical and health personnel, including their COVID-19 patients. According to the company, they donated almost 4,000 pieces of oatmeal body wash and Fresh Pro Toothpaste worth P500,000, which benefited doctors, nurses, healthcare staff and patients of five hospitals, namely, Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, Quezon City General Hospital, Tondo Medical Center, Quirino Memorial Medical Center, Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center. P1 million was also donated to the Philippine General Hospital.

This donation is part of the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaign to donate P5 million worth of Avon hygiene products to different hospitals to ease their difficulty in going out just to get their hygiene needs. The second tranche of products for donation to Angel’s project “is now being processed to further reach more people in the hospitals at this very challenging time,” the company said. 

Suffering in silence

Plan International Philippines, an international child-focused and girls rights development and humanitarian organization, also recognizes that health crises affect girls and boys, women and men differently. 

While children’s health appears less impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic than older adults, children’s education is interrupted, protection systems disrupted and their families and communities placed under stress by new health and economic burdens.

According to a statement Plan sent to Philstar.com, the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in lockdowns and quarantine measures, has put children, girls and young women at heightened risk of violence at home and cut them off from protection services and support networks. In the Philippines, 60% of cases of child violence happened at home.

“Our experience is that children, girls and young women are particularly hard-hit in emergencies. They are faced with disruption in education, increased risk of abuse and violence, and mental health risks,” said Plan International Philippines Country Director Dennis O’Brien.

Plan Philippines is currently working with the country’s biggest alliances of child rights organizations, including the Joining Forces Alliance to End Violence Against Children and the Child Rights Network, in ensuring that children and girls are not neglected in the COVID-19 response of the national and local government, pushing for increased funding and dedicated staff for child protection and support services during this public health crisis.

In South Africa, more than 12,000 victims rang the national helpline for abused women and children in the first three weeks after the lockdown started on March 27 -- double the usual volume of calls, said an April 30 Agence France-Presse (AFP) report.

A woman is killed every three hours in South Africa, according to police statistics -- a rate five times the world average. Half are murdered by men with whom they had a close relationship.
Official statistics suggest that more than 110 rapes are reported to the police per day.

Stay-at-home measures have only made things worse for women stuck in abusive relationships.

"If they are abusers naturally, the lockdown is a great opportunity for them," said Kathy Cronje, who heads a shelter for domestic violence victims named Safe House. 

Families are hardest hit in overcrowded township houses, said Shaheda Omar, head of the Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children.

"In normal circumstances, parents can tell the children to go and play outside," Omar told AFP, adding that not being able to work was also a trigger.

"People lose their jobs," she explained. 

"Not knowing when the next supply of bread is going to come from is an other contributing factor to the flare up of tensions."

"You have your disputes and spats and your disagreements, which are normal," said Sandy, a South African hairdresser who suffers from being locked up with an abusive husband.

"But when you're in a confined space, you don't get that opportunity to just get in your car and take a drive," she explained. The result: "A volcanic explosion."

Victims who are able to break free would still be unable to travel far due to lockdown restrictions.

The anti-sexual violence Tears Foundation received 30 percent more text messages and calls over the past month, said its founder Mara Glennie, a GBV assault survivor.

Glennie explained that they would first need to apply for a permit in court, adding another layer of complication.       

“The nature of the lockdown has made us suffer in silence," women's rights militant Brenda Madumise-Pajibo told AFP. 

In Iraq, the nationwide lockdown since mid-March is meant to keep coronavirus cases down in the country, but it has led to a spike in another sad statistic: domestic violence.

The head of Iraq's community police, Brigadier General Ghalib Atiyah, told AFP that its log of domestic violence cases has increased by an average of 30 percent since the curfew came into force, with some areas seeing as high as a 50-percent spike.

In a single week, the United Nations in Iraq (UNAMI) reported: "The rape of a woman with special needs, spousal abuse, immolation and self-immolation as well as self-inflicted injuries due to spousal abuse, sexual harassment of minors, and suicide due to domestic abuse among other crimes."

Now, the United Nations and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have seized on the wave of abuse under lockdown to point a spotlight at the issue.

"It should not take a global pandemic for Iraqi legislators to address the other deadly pandemic of domestic violence, but failure to do so will cost more lives," HRW's Belkis Wille said. — Reports from AFP, Ammar Karim

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