Domestic violence could spike
A spike in domestic abuse could be a side-effect of quarantine conditions for families, a social worker has warned.
Kelly Madeiros, a social worker and director of the Solstice wellness centre in Hamilton, said the increased tensions of quarantine could increase the likelihood of abuse.
She said: “There is a very high rate of domestic violence in Bermuda. There will be people at risk of that happening more often in their homes as stress increases, as alcohol and drugs are being used without having that option to get out of the house.”
Ms Madeiros added: “If someone is the subject of domestic violence and they are concerned about being isolated with that person, it would be great for them to contact the Women's Resource Centre.
“Knowing that there is a possibility of isolation, now would be a great time to work with that centre on a plan.”
She was backed by Katie Richards, of Chancery Legal, who said she hoped that a skeleton staff would be maintained in the courts to manage family cases — particularly where there was the possibility of injury.
The two were speaking after Alexandra Wheatley, the Supreme Court Registrar, said court services would be cut back as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Wheatley added that no new cases or enforcement proceedings would be filed or scheduled in the Magistrates' Court “unless the urgency of the matter requires it”, such as in the case of domestic violence protection order applications, bail applications and child protection cases.
Ms Richards said: “Evidence suggests incidents of domestic abuse are likely to increase. This could be as a direct result of imposed isolation and tensions increasing in homes.
“Another potential consequence of social distancing and self-isolation is that it could be used as a tool of coercive behaviour by perpetrators of abuse.
“There needs to be some avenue to seek assistance from the courts and other agencies whom protect the vulnerable in these urgent cases and situations.
“No doubt the Government and the courts will have these matters in mind and make further announcements in the coming days.”
Ms Richards said it was inevitable that the courts would close, but she was worried about the possible effects that would have on families.
She added: “I note that the initial announcement indicated DCFS staff would be on restricted hours, so hopefully the most serious incidents will still be addressed and court time will be made available.”
• The Centre Against Abuse, which provides crisis services for domestic abuse and sexual abuse survivors, can be contacted at any time through its hotline on 297-8278 or 292-4366