The “ASK WARIF” Column is a monthly interactive section that will educate, motivate and encourage as we discuss all issues surrounding gender based violence and share some of our experiences working at the WARIF Rape Crisis Centre. All questions submitted will be answered by our team of experts and qualified personnel which include physicians, counsellors, lawyers, law enforcement and everyday women who have had personal encounters with rape and sexual violence and are willing to share their stories in the hope that it helps prevent the next woman from experiencing the same.
COVID-19: Quarantined with an Abuser | Message from WARIF
With the recent upsurge of Covid-19 cases in Nigeria and as more organizations, individuals, families and human groups become mandated to implementing social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine, Women at Risk International (WARIF) has become more concerned about the effects these may have on survivors of gender based violence.
Hundreds of women and children all over Nigeria are likely to be in serious danger and their security and wellbeing at risk from physical violence, rape and sexual violence and from child sexual abuse. WARIF states that now more than ever, the organization is worried about the status of individuals and children at risk who are left with no option but to be self-isolated or quarantined with an abuser.
According to Dr. Kemi DaSilva-Ibru, the founder of WARIF, “More cases are being seen, as a result of the financial volatility, depression, and general uncertainty accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic, which has become justification for most perpetrators to carry outs acts of violence”. For a good number who were already experiencing some form of sexual abuse, the order from the government for restricted movements and recommended quarantine has now trapped them with their abusers. As a result of this, many are left with very few chances of getting help. Affected women who use the workplace as a place of refuge now have to work remotely from home, subjected to abusive spouses, fathers and brothers and children who sought safety at school, have also return home, isolated with those that cause them harm.
In response to this urgent consequence of the pandemic, WARIF has implemented safety planning protocols to provide assistance to survivors in need of help. These protocols designed and implemented by the organization to protect both adults and children are aligned with the recently released set of procedures by the UN (the Technical note: Protection of children during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic) to keeping children safe while the pandemic lasts.
Dr. Kemi Da-Silva reassures survivors that WARIF is positioning itself to be able to provide virtual assistance even as the novel COVID-19 virus ravages the country. “We anticipate an increase in the number of sexual violence cases against women and children as they are forced into quarantine with their abusers and we have devised safety protocols that include the use of our 24-hour confidential help line, text services and social media platforms; as these remote services offer immediate assistance whilst upholding the safety and anonymity of our survivors”. She added, “The whole world may feel like it has stopped but for that brave young girl or child in absolute isolation and abject fear – it truly has. We at WARIF are here for all survivors and want them all to know that they are not alone. We are also working with a select group pf police stations across Lagos to ensure that survivors can report cases of abuse through our services to a station closest to them with an assigned officer and receive responsiveness from the law.”
WARIF advocates that while self-isolating, in quarantine or working remotely, everyone should observe their environments carefully and report all cases of abuse or attempted abuse using its 24hour confidential helpline 08092100009 or send a message via twitter or instagram @warif_ng.