Instances of Domestic violence have been on the rise ever since the coronavirus-induced lockdown has been enforced in Andhra Pradesh. With families left in close quarters round the clock, it has been a difficult time for victims of domestic violence to seek help due to the lockdown. In this scenario, Mahila Mitra – the specially designed programme by the Andhra Pradesh Police has stepped up their efforts in educating about the problem. Yo! Vizag spoke to Dr. Keerthi Bollineni, President of Vasavya Mahila Mandali that currently spearheads the Mahila Mitra program in Vizag and other districts of AP.
What trends have you observed since the lockdown began?
“The Mahila Mitra volunteers have been receiving double the number of calls and requests complaining about domestic violence in AP since the lockdown was enforced. The trend is a shocking one. What starts off as a seemingly small issue gets blown out of proportion, resulting in violence due to pent-up anger and previously unresolved issues. People seeking help have been calling us constantly since they are now locked indoors with their abusive spouses. For the victims, it is worse than being in jail.”
How is Mahila Mitra helping victims during this time in AP?
“We have over 10,000 volunteers spread across thirteen districts in AP. Since we cannot physically visit the victims, our support is limited to on-call counselling to both victim and their spouse. If we observe that the abuse hasn’t stopped since the counselling, police authorities nearest to the victim’s residence are alerted.”
What effect does this have on children who witness domestic violence?
“The current conditions are distressing for adults and children alike. I have personally seen children from abusive homes succumbing to substance and alcohol abuse, getting into exploitative and toxic relationships themselves – and in a way, repeating the destructive cycle in their lives. The consequences are grave – to say the least.”
What can close aides or neighbours do when they witness domestic violence?
“The most critical and crucial thing is to not ignore it. Domestic violence is a highly rampant menace around the world and must be declared a health emergency, in my opinion. People can simply call anonymously either to Mahila Mitra volunteers or directly to the police if they witness violence in close quarters. It must be treated as an ethical responsibility and not something that doesn’t concern them.”