Covid-19 measures, stress may be leading to more domestic violence, experts warn

Child with teddy bear

The sudden change to structure and stress brought on by coronavirus Covid-19 and the measures taken to curb its spread may be leading to more domestic violence in the Netherlands. Both the National Psychotrauma Center at UMC Utrecht and children's hotline Kindertelefoon noticed a sharp increase in calls. 

The Kindertelefoon is receiving around 50 percent more calls than usual since the schools closed nearly two weeks ago. Under normal circumstances, children seek contact around 1 thousand times a day. Now it's around 1,500 ties, director Roline de Wilde said to RTL Nieuws. "We receive calls from children dealing with sexual abuse, domestic violence and arguments," she said. "That huge increase in telephone calls is worrying us. It is important that we send a signal that this is happening. Especially because this may go on a while."

De Wilde believes this is connected to families suddenly being forced into constant close contact with each other. All structure changed completely in a matter of days, she said. Tensions are rising in 'problem families', but also in 'ordinary families' who did not have problems before the coronavirus crisis, she said. "It is a very unreal and troubled time. It all creates tension."

Iva Bicanic, head of the National Psychotrauma Center, agrees that this crisis situation is causing increased stress and tension in families, she said to RTL Nieuws. "Parents face stress and are suddenly worried about their job, for example. That's an impulse for child abuse," she said. Feeling powerless makes people irritable, she said, stressing the importance of staying alert to this. "We must actively approach people, reach out."