Italian victims of domestic violence unable to seek help in lockdown.

Italy is experiencing a sharp fall in official reports of domestic violence as it approaches a month under coronavirus lockdown, raising concerns among parliamentarians and support groups that the forced confinement is leaving victims unable to seek help, Reuters reports.

Citing official data, a parliamentary committee into violence against women said last week that reports to police of domestic abuse dropped to 652 in the first 22 days of March, when Italy went into lockdown, from 1,157 in the same period of 2019.

Telefono Rosa, Italy’s largest domestic violence helpline, said calls fell 55% to 496 in the first two weeks of March from 1,104 in the same period last year. Other help groups said they had seen similar declines.

The parliamentary committee’s report said the trend did not mean a decline in violence against women but was rather a signal that “victims of violence risk being even more exposed to control and aggression by a partner who mistreats them.

“There are a lot of problems in this situation, maybe not the least of them is the difficulty of asking for help when everyone is obliged to stay at home,” said Alessandra Simone, director of the police criminal division in Milan.

Successive Italian governments have passed reforms aimed at improving protections, but 13.6% of women have suffered violence from a partner or ex-partner, according to national statistics bureau Istat.

“We’re seeing a drastic fall in calls by women because they have less freedom in this situation of forced confinement,” said Chiara Sainaghi, who manages five anti-violence centers in and around Milan for the Fondazione Somaschi, a social assistance foundation. She said calls to her group had fallen by as much as 70%.

“How is a woman who wants to report violence supposed to move? With the lockdown (she) can only contact the anti-violence centres when she goes to the pharmacy or buys food,” asked Valeria Valente, the senator who chairs the Italian parliamentary committee.

In France and Spain , where similar problems have been reported, women are able to use codewords in pharmacies, where they may be unable to talk freely, to alert staff to a domestic issue.

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