Domestic and Substance Abuse: The implications of a nationwide lockdown

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How the lockdown has led to increased cases of gender-based violence and the successes and challenges presented by the alcohol and cigarette ban.


By Lerato Botha

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 3 of VARSITY News.


Gender-based violence and substance abuse are issues that many South Africans are all too familiar with. A gruesome light was shed on the issue of gender-based violence towards the end of 2019 with rape and abuse cases coming from women all over the country. This was at a time where there was a rise in young students falling victim to unmerciful rapists and murderers. These cases revealed a daunting habit of abuse among South African men, and the lockdown has only made it harder for victims to escape these situations.


With nowhere to go as the country handles this unprecedented pandemic, victims of all kinds are trapped in their homes with their abusers. Since the beginning of our nationwide lockdown on Friday, 27 March, the number of calls relating to domestic violence sky-rocketed with a total of 87 000 new calls by the beginning of April. The number of cases had reached more than double the normal rate within a matter of just a few days.



Additionally, sexual predators have also begun finding new ways to inflict violence over people during lockdown. New reported sexual assault cases have seen men pretending to form part of the Police and National Defence Force in order to impose themselves unto unsuspecting victims.


On the other hand, as alcohol abuse can often also be seen as an avenue to domestic abuse and general violence in South Africa, it seems that the alcohol ban has, in some ways, helped in mitigating this violent behaviour. According to health workers at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, because of the restrictions to alcohol access as part of the lockdown guidelines there has been a 66% decrease in trauma cases being brought to the hospital. This in turn has led to the ability to shift more focus onto patients affected by the coronavirus instead.


However, as much as this is a positive attribute to the alcohol ban, the idea is not completely solid. Although the ban may be helpful in tackling alcoholism and substance abuse, it disallows the consumption of alcohol and use of cigarettes for recreational purposes. For those who indulge in drinking and smoking in moderation, for relaxation or enjoyment purposes, the ban has possibly taken away a means of relief that could help citizens find some type of pleasure during these admittedly trying times.


To make matters worse, the ban has also resulted in the illegal sale of unchecked drugs and alcohol at elevated prices, which could be particularly dangerous to people’s well-being. In addition, a misuse of power has become prevalent among South African authorities as some of them have begun working outside of their jurisdiction in participating in the unjust confiscation of alcohol from people’s homes.


Although the lockdown and the restrictions that come with it have many benefits in tackling this widespread pandemic, it has also come with its fair share of challenges. However, it is still important that we be as cooperative as possible in adhering to these guidelines and that we look out for our loved ones who may be suffering from abuse during this time.


The domestic violence helpline is always available to help at 0800 150 150.




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