Contrary to what was initially thought, the quarantine together with the aggressor was not the main factor for Brazilian women to suffer violence in the pandemic. It was the lack of financial autonomy, with the loss of employment and income, that put them most at risk.
This is shown in the third edition of the survey “Visible and Invisible – The victimization of women in Brazil”, carried out by Datafolha at the request of the Brazilian Forum on Public Security. The study interviewed 2,079 people aged 16 or over, in 130 municipalities, between the 10th and 14th of May.
In the first months of the pandemic, in 2020, the world saw an increase in the number of cases of domestic violence at the same time that the records of police reports decreased. The explanation lay in the long periods of lockdown, which made the victims stay longer at home with the aggressors and prevented them from reporting.
In Brazil, however, a different phenomenon happened. This is because the country as a whole did not adopt a rigid lockdown and the social isolation rates were low, explains Samira Bueno, executive director of the Forum.
“After a year of pandemic, we saw that what mattered was the financial issue. We have a record unemployment rate, half of the population in food insecurity. How a woman puts her husband out of the house if she doesn’t have money for her children to eat ?”, it says.
The home office, for example, was restricted to wealthier women. Only 26% of respondents said they started working remotely due to the pandemic, an index concentrated in those with higher education (41%), from classes A and B (45% and 37%).
“Remote work is a privilege. The most vulnerable women, black, peripheral, of reproductive age, could not afford that luxury. Either they lost their job or they kept leaving, because the places where they work, the essential services, continued to function.” , says Bueno.
Among women who have suffered violence, 25% claim that the loss of employment and income and the inability to work to ensure their own livelihood are the factors that most weighed on the occurrence of the violence they experienced, while 22% emphasize that greater coexistence with the aggressor also contributed. However, less than 10% mention difficulties in going to the police station.
The precariousness of living conditions is greater among those who have suffered violence: 62% of the women victims said that their family income had decreased. Among those who did not suffer violence, this percentage was 50%.
In addition, 47% of women who suffered violence also lost their jobs. The average among those who did not suffer violence was 29.5%.
The survey did not find differences between the responses of women victims of violence and others on the length of stay at home.
The study also highlights that separated and divorced women have the highest levels of victimization (35%), compared to married (17%), widows (17%) and single (31%).
This is because the attempt to break up with the aggressor can increase the chances of women being killed. In other words, separation is, at the same time, an attempt to stop violence, but also the moment when it becomes more vulnerable.
“Sometimes the separation doesn’t end the bond with the aggressor, especially if you have children. Relationships are also not linear, people separate, come back. Leaving the relationship does not cancel the risk of violence, in fact, it increases”, explains Bueno , who also believes that married women may feel more inhibited in responding to the survey, which would help explain the difference.
The pandemic also increased intra-family violence, which was not so common and used to represent around 1% of cases. Now, among the perpetrators of violence, in addition to partners (25%), and ex-partners (18%), there are fathers and mothers (11%), stepfathers and stepmothers (5%), sons and daughters (4%).
“This shows that there is tension within the home as a whole. Not only that domestic violence practiced by the partner, but by the whole family,” says Bueno.
During the pandemic, 1 in 4 Brazilian women (24%) over the age of 16 claims to have suffered some type of violence or aggression. This means that around 17 million women have suffered physical, psychological or sexual violence.
When compared to the 2019 survey, there is a slight percentage retreat, but within the margin of error, which is 3 points more or less (27% in 2019 and 24% in 2021), configuring stability.
There was a drop in police records of intentional bodily harm, threat, rape and rape of the vulnerable against women. But, in the opposite direction, lethal violence —feminicide and homicide of women— showed an increase in the period.
If we consider only physical violence, 4.3 million women (6%) were attacked with slaps, punches or kicks. In other words, every minute, 8 women were caught in the country during the pandemic.
For men and women, the main changes in routine with the pandemic are longer stays at home (52%), decreased family income (48%), increased stress at home (44%), interruption of in-person classes for children ( 40%), job loss (33%), and the fear of not being able to pay the bills (30%).
All of this weighed more heavily on them, burdened with housework and taking care of their children.
In addition, 14% of the population says they have started to consume more alcoholic beverages in the last year — a fact that worries because the abusive consumption of alcohol is a risk factor in situations of domestic violence.
What hasn’t changed is that women suffered more violence within their own home (49%) and the perpetrators are people known to the victim in 70% of cases. Young and black women also continue to be the most affected.
After the aggression, 45% of women did nothing, 22% sought help from their family, 13% sought help from friends, 12% reported it to a women’s police station, 8% went to the church, 7.5% reported it to a common police station , 7% of women sought the Military Police through 190 and 2% called the Women’s Service Center (Call 180).
Among women who did not go to the police, 33% said they had resolved the situation themselves, 15% did not want to involve the police and 17% did not consider it important to report it.
The survey also showed that the pandemic and restricted movement did not reduce cases of sexual harassment. Last year, 38% of Brazilian women were victims of some type of harassment, equivalent to 26.5 million women.
The most frequent is the teasing or disrespectful comment when they were walking down the street. The work environment and public transport are more hostile environments and more conducive to harassment of women than parties and clubs.
In this case, racial inequality becomes even more evident: 52% of black women in Brazil suffered harassment in the last year, 41% of brown women and 30% of white women. That is, while more than half of black women were harassed, the number drops to almost a third of white women.