When reports indicated that the novel coronavirus may not be as dangerous for kids, it felt like a small silver lining. But a poignant new Time magazine essay penned by Angelina Jolie shines a light on how a heartbreakingly insidious “secondary impact” of the coronavirus quarantine is putting children at risk. That danger? Domestic violence.
Jolie, a contributing editor for Time, pointed to the fact that this pandemic has created conditions that tend to lead to an uptick in domestic violence. Job losses, economic insecurity, the mounting stress of being confined, the anxiety that comes from not knowing what’s yet to come — all of these factors at home can increase the risk of domestic violence, said Jolie, “whether in a developed economy or a refugee camp.”
“There are already reports of a surge in domestic violence around the world, including violent killings. It comes at a time when children are deprived of the very support networks that help them cope: from their trusted friends and teachers to after-school sports activities and visits to a beloved relative’s house that provide an escape from their abusive environment,” Jolie wrote, adding, “All this poses the question: What are we doing now to step up to protect vulnerable children from suffering harm during the shutdown that will affect them for the rest of their lives?”
Angelina Jolie: Children seem to be less vulnerable to the coronavirus. Here's how the pandemic may still put them at risk https://t.co/JFxG77krrL
— TIME (@TIME) April 9, 2020
Of course, Jolie understands the necessity of quarantine. But the necessity doesn’t negate the fact that this time carries inherent risks for some families — and it’s an issue compounded by the fact we, as a society, simply weren’t prepared for the pandemic.
“We were underprepared for this moment because we have yet to take the protection of children seriously enough as a society. The profound, lasting health impacts of trauma on children are poorly understood and often minimized,” she wrote. “Women who find the strength to tell somebody about their experiences are often shocked by the many people who choose not to believe them, make excuses for abusive behavior, or blame them. They are often not prepared for the risk of being failed by an under-resourced child welfare system, or encountering judges and other legal professionals who are not trained in trauma and controlling abuse and don’t take its effects on children seriously.”
So, where do we go from here? Jolie recommends that we all take a more proactive (but still social-distancing-friendly) approach. This might look like “calling family or friends” we’re concerned about, educating ourselves to “the signs of stress and domestic violence” and supporting our local domestic violence shelters.
Jolie concluded, “It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child. It will take an effort by the whole of our country to give children the protection and care they deserve.”
Before you go, read more about celebrities affected by domestic violence.