The Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Family as the Basic Unit of Society:
The Rise of Domestic Violence Cases in Municipalities in the 1st and 2nd Districts of Ilocos Sur, Region I-Ilocos, North Luzon
A Proposed Study
October 27, 2021
According to the World Health Organization, violence against women or VAW, particularly intimate partner violence or IPV (physical and/or sexual) is highly prevalent, with 1 in 3 women worldwide experiencing it in their lifetime, and “tends to increase during every type of emergency,” such as a pandemic like the COVID-19 (2020). WHO also states that data is scarce but there have been reports in several countries, specifically reports to the police, that suggest domestic violence cases have increased since the COVID-19 outbreak. It is being referred to as “the shadow pandemic,” shadowing behind the current COVID-19 pandemic (Dabney et al., 2021).
The risk of IPV is likely to increase due to distancing measures put in place and people being encouraged to stay at home. The likelihood is dramatically increased as family members spend more time in close contact and families cope with additional stress and potential economic or job losses: having less contact with family and friends who may provide support and protection from violence; women bearing the brunt of increased care work during this pandemic (school closures further exacerbate this burden and place more stress on them); and the disruption of livelihoods and ability to earn a living decreasing access to basic needs and services and increasing stress on families with the potential to exacerbate conflicts and violence (as resources become scarcer, women may be at greater risk for experiencing economic abuse). Perpetrators of abuse may use restrictions due to COVID-19 to exercise power and control over their partners to further reduce access to services, help, and psychosocial support from both formal and informal networks. They may also restrict access to necessary items such as soap and hand sanitizer and exert control by spreading misinformation about the disease and stigmatizing their partners (WHO, 2020).
To the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), “gender-based violence or GBV occurs in all countries and economic and social groups. It undermines the health, dignity, security, and autonomy of its victims. Yet global resources to find solutions and implement programs to end GBV have been limited” (2020). As stated by the United Nations (UN) Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez, “work to end GBV is unfinished” (2020). All stakeholders involved in the COVID-19 response need to raise awareness of the potential effects that physical distancing, stay at home and other measures are likely to have on women who are subjected to violence and their children. Community members should be made aware of the increased risk of VAW during this pandemic and the need to keep in touch and support women subjected to violence, and to have information about where help for survivors is available. It is important to ensure that it is safe to connect with women when the abuser is present in the home. Women who are experiencing violence may find it helpful to reach out to supportive family and friends, seek support from a hotline, or seek out local services for survivors. They may also find it useful to have a safety plan in case the violence escalates. This includes having a neighbor, friend, relative, or shelter identified to go to should they need to leave the house immediately for safety (WHO, 2020).
To this end, the UNFPA’s operations are focused on three strategic priorities including addressing GBV. The UNFPA-Philippines Country Office supports the Philippine government’s efforts to ensure that there will be zero GBV during the COVID-19 pandemic. One example is the mapping out of how VAW data is collected across multiple agencies in a Data Roundtable organized by the Philippine Commision on Women (PCW), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Commission on Human Rights (CHR), UNFPA, Oxfam International, and PLAN International, developing GBV and COVID-19 heatmaps that identify where GBV and COVID-19 cases are converging and where the highest incidence of reports might be or where GBV reporting is limited (Gonzalez, 2020). The year 2020 also commemorates the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, which has provisions for the prevention of sexual and GBV. The increased GBV incidence and need for stronger attention on GBV cases also coincided in a year when the UN system celebrated two significant milestones: the 25th anniversary of the Beijing 4th World Conference on Women’s Rights and the 75th anniversary of the UN. These celebrations could be important reminders to the international community, rights holders, and duty-bearers that the work remains unfinished and that tools needed to do better are available.
Based on the observed increasing number of reports to the police and responses by the police to the reports, there has been a rise of domestic violence cases in Ilocos Sur. However, there has been no official study conducted and published in Ilocos Sur or in the Ilocos Region yet based on research of recent published literature. There is only one recent published study conducted in other regions in Luzon and Visayas and this was only a preliminary study: a projection and estimate of how it was believed that cases of IPV would increase in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic community quarantine restrictions. It was based on a number of assumptions with no actual data yet. Meanwhile, aside from the Data Roundtable by the PCW, DSWD, CHR, UNFPA, Oxfam and PLAN International, the Southeast Asia Research Programme (SEARP) of the Indian/South Asian Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) reportedly collected qualitative and quantitative data over the period of 2019 and 2020, and Akanksha Khullar, an IPCS Centre for Internal and Regional Security (IReS) researcher, examined the collected data to map the repercussions of COVID-19 on women and girls in the Philippines (2021). The analysis notes that the PNP reported 6,548 cases of rape in 2020 while the PSA reported an increase of rape cases by 2,162 and 2,168 in 2019 and 2020 compared to 1,656 in 2018. However, with the data provided, it is difficult to conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic that occurred since 2020 have made a significant impact on the reported rape cases and sexual violence in the Philippines and also difficult to compare whether there has been a significant increase in sexual violence cases, particularly rape cases, in 2020 compared to 2019.
The UPPI conducted a study about IPV on the four largest regions in the country (in terms of population) only, namely the National Capital Region (NCR), Region III-Central Luzon, Region IVA-CALABARZON, and Region VII-Central Visayas (Marquez et al., 2020). IPV in this case refers to “any form of physical or sexual violence committed by the woman’s husband or live-in partner,” which follows the definition in the National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in partnership with Inner City Fund (ICF) International. The UPPI mentions that, aside from the incidences of IPV studied through the 2017 NDHS, “cases of IPV reported to the Philippine National Police (PNP) have been declining” pre-COVID-19 pandemic. However, when the entire Luzon island was placed under “enhanced community quarantine” or ECQ after a COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 11, 2020 and reports of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose, and the movement of the population was restricted and a strict stay-at-home order was imposed, the UPPI believed that “for some women, the home does not necessarily provide safe protection, but instead, being confined in a small living space may increase incidence of violence, particularly IPV.” Other factors to consider were loss of means of livelihood and economic distress during this time of pandemic. The UNFPA also states that “mounting household tensions and economic stresses could also play a role. There are already indications that violence incidence is indeed growing, including increases in calls to violence prevention hotlines and media reports of rising domestic abuse and homicide.” Being under community quarantine, basically being locked down in their homes with their abusers, these victims of domestic violence and their physical and mental health are basically being impacted because of the COVID-19 pandemic (Gonzalez, 2020).
To attain the UNFPA’s goal of zero GBV (among others) and design a more effective response, the UPPI found the need to measure the possible effect of COVID-19. They aimed to estimate the potential changes on key GBV indicators, among others, brought about by the COVID-19-related community quarantine implemented nationwide, particularly national-level estimates as well as regional estimates when data allowed, using methods employed in previous studies that generated global-level estimates of the effect of the pandemic. Using these methods, UPPI developed their own assumptions, one of which is that the potential impact of the COVID-19-induced community quarantine on the incidence of IPV among currently married women (CMW) aged 15-49 was assumed to follow the 20% scaling up assumption of the UNFPA.
The UNFPA believed that the COVID-19 pandemic would have a negative effect on the three transformative results the UNFPA aims to achieve by 2030, one of which is the ending of GBV. The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to undermine the efforts to end GBV through increasing the incidence of violence (one of the two pathways). The UNFPA and their partners, Avenir Health, Johns Hopkins University (USA) and Victoria University (Australia), estimated the impact of the pandemic and related challenges on the mentioned transformative goals. To estimate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on efforts to end GBV, Avenir Health modelled a delay in the scale-up of prevention efforts as attention and resources are devoted to COVID-19 and an increase in violence during the period of lockdown. Assuming a slow start to the scale-up of prevention programmes (for example, a 2-year delay in 2020 and 2021), followed by a rapid expansion of prevention programs in the middle of the decade, an estimated 2 million additional instances of IPV in 2020-2021 were expected. This translates to almost 200 million fewer cases of violence being averted by 2030, a reduction of about one third in progress in ending GBV.
Projections show that if violence increases by 20 per cent during periods of lockdown (or community quarantine in the Philippines), there would be an additional 15 million cases of IPV in 2020 for an average lockdown duration of 3 months, 31 million cases for an average lockdown of 6 months, 45 million for an average lockdown of 9 months, and 61 million if the average lockdown period were to be as long as one year. These projections are global (inclusive of all 193 United Nations member states, which includes the Philippines), also account for the high levels of underreporting seen with GBV, and are built on estimates of the occurrence of violence rather than reported rates of violence. These are only preliminary data released as pandemic conditions were rapidly evolving and updates will be released as more information becomes available and the data are further refined.
Using data from the 2015 Census-based population projection and the 2013 and 2017 NDHS, and using the “Adding it up methodology of the Guttmacher Institute” and the statistical modelling of Johns Hopkins University (the Lives Saved Tool or LIST), The UPPI estimated that “IPV among CMW would increase,” particularly 95,000 more physical violence cases by the end of 2020, with 10,000 physical violence cases and 4,000 sexual violence cases every month. With a projected 2020 mid-year population of 28,009,459 for women aged 15-49, 706,000 CMW were projected to experience physical violence while 296,000 CMW were projected to experience sexual violence at the hands of their intimate partners by the end of 2020. It is noteworthy that “these estimates were generated based on several assumptions. In the absence of actual data though, the estimates provided a picture of how measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically the community quarantine, could have detrimental effects on women’s health.” The UPPI concluded that “the pandemic community quarantine was expected to have adverse impacts on various aspects of the sexual and reproductive health of Filipino women, particularly in terms of IPV among others, and that the magnitude of the potential impact was substantial,” moreso beyond the year 2020 if the community quarantine was to extend. There was an expected average increase of 12,000 women to experience IPV every month. As UPPI said in their technical report, “without a doubt, COVID-19 affected everyone and its impact is not only limited to health but spans the whole gamut of social, economic, psychological and physical aspects of life.”
In this study, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, namely the community quarantine or lockdowns, on the incidence of domestic violence cases in Ilocos Sur will be determined by verifying that there has been a significant increase in the number of domestic violence cases in Ilocos Sur during the COVID-19 pandemic community quarantine or lockdowns (from March 11, 2020 to present) compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared (before March 11, 2020), thus verifying that the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have had a significant impact on domestic violence in Ilocos Sur. This study aims to verify the assumptions made by the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) that the incidence of IPV and GBV will increase in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lastly, this study also aims to provide actual police data on the incidence of domestic violence in Ilocos Sur, Region I-Ilocos, North Luzon during the COVID-19 pandemic to serve as a further study and comparison to the data obtained by the UPPI in their preliminary study.
A similar study was conducted in Atlanta, Georgia, USA by a team of public health researchers, in which they differentiated the domestic violence incident reports from police data before and during the COVID-19 pandemic (Evans et al., 2021). They collected thirty weeks of crime data each in the years 2018, 2019, and 2020 from the Atlanta Police Department (APD), that of whom provided the regularly updated data as open source through the APD Open Data portal and Crime Data Downloads portal (similar to the PNP’s e-blotter, the APD’s electronic Integrated Compliance Information System or ICIS Case Management stores the incidents of Part I offences, one of which is domestic crimes) and the LexisNexis Community Crime Map, and then subsequently compared the collected data. They confirmed that there was a growth in domestic crimes during the pandemic as reported to the police, with trendlines showing that domestic crimes were occurring at a relatively similar pace as observed in previous years. They also observed that this spike in domestic crimes was recorded after city and statewide shelter-in-place orders. The data suggest that police are reporting to assist during domestic incidents. It is important to note that the obtained data only included the most serious offence during the incident, therefore not taking into account the multiple crimes that may occur within a single incident. The data was also obtained from only one city.
Researchers in the field of psychology as well as police science in Portugal also studied IPV reports to police during the pandemic, which was obtained through their government’s national database (specifically the Domestic Violence Database managed by the country’s Secretary-General of the Internal Affairs Ministry) (Capinha et al., 2021). However, their data showed that reports of IPV (new and recurring) to the police decreased by 10.99% compared to the four years prior to 2020, increasing especially during the periods when more restrictive measures (such as lockdowns) were decreed by their government. The decrease is even greater when compared to the year 2019 only. This suggests that “the pandemic could exacerbate the use of strategies to control the victims, preventing them from pressing charges,” as previously mentioned by WHO (2020). It is also noted that crimes occurring in residences increased in 2020 (compared to other places) as well as reports presented through community policing as opposed to reporting in person. According to Capinha et al. (2021), including the higher occurrences of violence on more than one victim, “the findings are congruent with the social context of lockdown and stay-at-home measures, in which families tend to pass more time together, at home.” It is important to consider that Portuguese law allows the reporting of IPV crimes for up to six months. The study also accounted for all IPV reports, regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of those implicated, though violence between people under 18 years old was not considered (considering that in the Philippines, child marriages still exist as well as teen pregnancies in which the teenaged couples cohabitate as a result of the pregnancies).
Meanwhile, a group of psychology researchers in South Wales, UK turned to police referrals to a specialist domestic abuse service (known as RISE-Cardiff) before and during the first lockdown for their study, specifically for female adult victim-survivors from December 2019 until July 2020 (Moore et al., 2021). They monitored for changes in referral rates and the profiles of referrals and found that there was not much increase in the volume of police referrals during lockdown but there was an increased risk observed based on the Safelives DASH Risk Checklist, which is an evidence-based risk assessment tool widely used to help frontline practitioners identify high risk cases of domestic abuse among others. Although most of the reported cases in the police referrals were initiated by the victims, they concluded that victims were less likely to seek help during lockdown if the instances weren’t severe due to the decreased number of victim-reported cases even before the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that occurred, even more so after the lockdown was lifted after three months. On the other hand, they found that more children were exposed to domestic violence, which they accounted the closure of schools during the pandemic for, and these children were the ones to initiate police contact during the lockdown. They observed that when measures were eased after three months of lockdown however, that was when acquaintances and services were able to see the victims’ need for help and the children’s need to report the occurrence of domestic violence themselves decreased.
For this study, data on domestic violence reports to the police in select municipalities in the 1st and 2nd districts of Ilocos Sur (Vigan, Narvacan) will be collected, both written and electronic (e-blotter), although focus will be placed on e-blotter due to the constraints of written records. Data will be collected in the two years since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared (March 11, 2020 to March 11, 2022) as well as two years prior to the declaration of the pandemic (from March 10, 2018 to March 10, 2020) to serve as comparison.
The collected data will be analyzed based on the following factors: types of domestic violence cases (physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, psychological and child abuse), gender (both husbands and wives and sons and daughters as victims of domestic violence), location (the selected municipalities in the districts of Ilocos Sur and the available police stations and police response), and time of incidence (before and during the pandemic, different types of community quarantine during the pandemic, e.g. ECQ, general community quarantine or GCQ, and modified enhanced community quarantine or MECQ, and day and night during community quarantine). In Portuguese law, according to the similar study by Capinha et al. (2021), violence types are identified as physical (e.g., to hit), psychological (e.g., to humiliate), sexual (e.g., coerce to have sex), economic (e.g., do not allow access to the salary), and social (e.g., defamation via social media). Capinha et al. (2021) also note that each occurrence of violence refers to a situation between a couple or former couple (victim and perpetrator) and “occurrences where more than one victim is identified” refers to situations in which other people (particularly children) were victimized (further than exposed) in that situation. Capinha et al. (2021) also considered the specific measures decreed by the Portuguese government during the pandemic in their study, which are “emergency state” being the more restrictive measure and “contingency/calamity period” that does not include mandatory stay-at-home measures but includes restricted movement and curfews. They also considered the age, level of education of victims, their professional situation, and financial dependence from the perpetrator as demographic and economic or sociodemographic factors in their study, which will not be considered in this study. Moore et al.’s (2021) study considered the sources of the police reports, which included family members, friends, neighbors, professionals, and other third parties aside from the victims, perpetrators, and children themselves.
The significance of the data analysis will be determined through statistical methods and the analyzed data and subsequent conclusions made will be compared with the predictions of the UPPI and UNFPA in the discussion and interpretation of data. Evans et al. (2021) used SPSS and Microsoft Excel software for data visualization, graphing the cumulative counts and modelling yearly trendlines. Capinha et al. (2021) analyzed χ2, Cramer’s V, and standardized residual differences from their data using IBM SPSS STATISTIC 22 software as well as confidence intervals. Meanwhile, Moore et al. (2021) used descriptive statistics to analyze their data, particularly chi-squared tests for analysis of significant differences. Their data were recorded in open fields on an Excel spreadsheet and retrospectively coded for analysis with sense checking of the interpretations of the coding. Their study was also ethically approved. Crime patterns during the pandemic were preliminary tested using the mapping dashboard. The data were then presented as percentages of cases in charts.
Capinha, Marta, Guinote, Hugo, and Rijo, Daniel. (2021, October 5). Intimate Partner Violence Reports During the COVID-19 Pandemic First Year in Portuguese Urban Areas: A Brief Report. Journal of Family Violence, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-021-00332-y
COVID-19 and violence against women: What the health sector/system can do. (2020, April 7). World Health Organization (Editor). Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research, https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/WHO-SRH-20.04
Evans, Dabney P., Hawk, Shila René, and Ripkey, Carrie E. (2021, August 25). Domestic Violence in Atlanta Georgia Before and During COVID-19. Violence and Gender, Vol. 9, No. 3, https://doi.org/10.1089/vio.2020.0061
Gonzalez, Gustavo. (2020, December 15). Violence against women and girls: A pandemic we must end now. United Nations Philippines, Stories, https://philippines.un.org/en/105122-violence-against-women-and-girls-pandemic-we-must-end-now
Khullar, Akanksha. (2021, September 25). COVID-19: Impact on Women in the Philippines. Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, Commentary #5787, http://www.ipcs.org/comm_select.php?articleNo=5787
Marquez, Maria Paz N., Laguna, Elma P., Kabamalan, Maria Midea M., and Cruz, Grace T. (2020, October 15). Estimating the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on key sexual and reproductive health outcomes in the Philippines: Technical Report. University of the Philippines Population Institute, https://www.uppi.upd.edu.ph/sites/default/files/pdf/UPPI-Impact-of-COVID-19-on-SRH.pdf
Moore, Graham, Buckley, Kelly, Haworth, Emma, Burn, Anne-Marie, Copeland, Lauren, Evans, Rhiannon, and Ware, Lisa. (2021, September 25). Police referrals for domestic abuse before and during the first COVID-19 lockdown: An analysis of routine data from one specialist service in South Wales. Journal of Public Health, pp. 1–8, https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdab343
United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA). (2020, April 27). Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on family planning and ending gender-based violence, female genital mutilation and child marriage: Pandemic threatens achievement of the Transformative Results committed by UNFPA. Avenir Health, USA: Johns Hopkins University, Australia: Victoria University (Contributors). https://www.unfpa.org/resources/impact-covid-19-pandemic-family-planning-and-ending-gender-based-violence-female-genital
Why are men less likely than women to report being abused? Is there adequate support for victims of same-sex partner violence? How do gender roles, stereotypes, and hetero-sexism shape domestic violence? What are the behavioral patterns of spousal abuse?
It has three distinct phases which are generally present in violent relationships: Tension Building Phase. Violent Episode Phase. Remorseful/Honeymoon Phase.
- Physical Abuse: Hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair pulling, etc. ...
- Sexual Abuse: Coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact or behavior without consent. ...
- Emotional Abuse: Undermining an individual's sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem.
- Cultural factors.
- Legal factors.
- Economic factors.
- Political factors.