The alarming rates of domestic violence in Peru makes it one of the main reasons that children are separated from their families in the country. Last year, more than 200,000 cases of domestic violence were reported in the country – one of the highest rates in Latin America.
The level of violence has only increased as families are forced to stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic. In the first few days of the lockdown, almost 4,000 calls flooded the national helpline for domestic violence.
“In most of the cases, women have seen violence in their home and it feels normal for them, which leads to submission, inability to act, low self-esteem and a lack of awareness of what is happening,” says Stephany Orihuela, a child protection specialist and psychologist at SOS Children’s Villages Perú. “This has severe effects on the children’s behaviour, like emotional problems, low school performance and the normalization of violence.”
“Under lockdown, uncertainty and economic stress can lead to a violent rage and the limitations imposed forces families to coexist in violence, which may cause irreparable damage in the victims,” says Ms Orihuela.
SOS Peru works to keep families together through programmes designed to address the root causes of this violence. In cooperation with community leaders, SOS Perú promotes what it calls “protective communities” where people are trained to identify cases of domestic violence in their neighbourhood and inform the SOS team. They also run ‘Active fatherhood’ workshops for men, which seek to redefine views about masculinity and a man’s role in the household.
During lockdown, SOS family advisors remain vigilant to keep their outreach work going as much as it can. Although women can leave their home to file a police report or call a helpline, this is can be difficult with the aggressor present 24/7.
Recognising that the strain on families increases the risk of violence, SOS family advisors are in constant communication with the families twice a week to give them socio-emotional support and guidelines.
“We have also started telephone psychological therapy for the most vulnerable families and in need of additional emotional support,” says Ms Olivera. “Together with the family advisors, they can identify if there are signs of violence to women or children.”
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