On March 11th, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 a pandemic, which is why a health emergency was declared in Ecuador and, like many other countries, imposed a mandatory and necessary social isolation. Everyone’s life changed: classes were suspended, workdays were canceled, business premises closed, and economic losses in a country already in crisis began to emerge. This preventive measure was a way to prevent the spread of the virus. Still, for many women who suffer from violence and family abuse, confinement meant choosing between two ills: the pandemic that haunted the streets, or the danger that was locked in their homes.
According to a 2018 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the most dangerous and violence-prone place for a woman is the home. In 2017 worldwide, six out of 10 femicides were committed by the partner or close relatives of the murdered women and girls.
The quarantine has prevented victims of violence from accessing assistance and relief services to denounce their attackers. But even the deficiency of emergency institutions such as the national or health police (which have collapsed due to the pandemic) that have already presented problems since the past has managed to activate social organizations to support those facing violence who need help.
In Ecuador, the Comprehensive Protection Service (SPI) of the Secretariat of Human Rights attends through the line, 1800-Crime, the violence that occurs during the health emergency. According to a response to a request for information from the Secretariat, psychologists, social workers, and lawyers from the 45 SPI offices are attending under the teleworking modality. But this service, in January 2020, did not fully work because many of its officials were fired due to a budget cut. It is uncertain how the line works today, at the end of March. In these cases, the cell phone can be a vital tool. The Secretariat for Human Rights says that it is advisable to have a mobile phone nearby to report attacks. Neighbors and relatives who testify to the events must report them.
Gender violence is usually a silent threat, and much more in times of isolation and crisis, it can become almost invisible. Many vulnerable women in the face of this domestic violence are carrying a doubly heavy psychological burden in this necessary quarantine. And society should not forget them.