On Monday, the ISTAT report entitled “Requests for help during the pandemic” was released, providing the data from the activity of anti-domestic violence centers, shelters for abuse victims and calls to the special number 1522 for the year 2020.
Thanks to the previous reports of Action Aid and Eures, as well as those delivered to us by the Di.Re. network, around November 25 (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women), we already knew that the numbers offered a snapshot that showed a serious worsening of the situation, at the national and international level. The ISTAT study confirms that the health emergency has had the effect of reigniting previous situations of violence and causing yet others to come to light, particularly in the lockdown phase that required forced cohabitation.
There was a dramatic increase in calls to the special number 1522 — by 79.5%, that is, from 8,427 calls in 2019 to 15,128 in 2020. The number of messages via chat also showed an increase of 71%, from 683 to 2,361.
Regarding the phone calls, the peak was recorded starting from the end of March, with a +176.9% in April (compared to the previous year) and a +182.2% in May (compared to the same month of 2019). Then, around November 2020, in the week when the information campaigns about November 25 were picking up pace, ISTAT reports a 114.1% increase in calls regarding domestic abuse compared 2019. In 47.9% of cases, the complaints involved physical violence, although all women who used the 1522 number reported multiple forms of abuse, including psychological abuse in half the cases.
There was an increase in the number of young women seeking help, in the age group of up to 24 years (11.8%), and in the number of women over 55 (23.2%); in absolute terms, about half of them were married. With regard to the abusers, a high number were part of the victim’s family, with an increase in the past year: 18.5% in 2020 against 12.6% in 2019. The percentage of complaints of abuse from the women’s partners remained unchanged at 57%.
There is a growing body of data about those who turn to the 1522 line, in most cases women, but there was also an increase (of up to 80%) in the cases of relatives, friends, acquaintances and territorial operators who call in to report situations of violence. The data coming from the anti-violence centers also confirms that the first months of 2020 saw a rise in the phenomenon: more than 20,000 women turned to the centers, and almost 10% of them said that it was in connection with circumstances related to the pandemic, or the obligation to live together because of the lockdown, the loss of work by the woman or by the perpetrator of the violence.
The regions with numbers above the average were Lazio, Veneto, Sicily, Sardinia and Lombardy. The different data from the various regions provides an even more detailed picture: for an average of 73 women received at every anti-violence center, the number was 108 in northeastern Italy and 95 in central Italy. A significant number came from the islands, which saw an increase of 41.5% in the first five months of 2020, while a decrease occurred in the northwest, with a 16.4% drop.
The difficulties faced by the anti-violence centers, widely publicized in recent months—including health emergencies, the shortage of funds and the obvious barriers introduced by lockdowns—have not, however, led to them interrupting the provision of services, except in six cases (three in Lombardy and one in Veneto, Lazio and Abruzzo).
Thanks to the network of associations and centers, 67.3% of the consultations took place face-to-face, respecting the rules of social distancing, while the rest could be handled by telephone calls and emails. These are good numbers, if we recall that in the first weeks of the pandemic there was a physical decrease in the number of people seeking services and a general situation that had to be reimagined due to the unprecedented circumstances. In particular, the anti-violence centers of Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Marche were affected, while in the south, Molise and Puglia were most affected. In half of the cases, the centers found it difficult to find new intervention strategies, since they were residential in nature and it was thus hard to alter their mode of operation.
In the light of these numbers, it will do us good to recall just how essential the work that is done in the territories is, and the political and support networks that carried on undaunted even during the most difficult months of last year. And we ought to recall how much male violence against women, first and foremost, is showing its structural nature, even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.
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