Pandemic powers pilot-project for elderly women victims of domestic violence

The prolonged lockdown in Portugal saw a massive increase in cases of domestic violence, as well as incidents affecting elderly women. As a result, three new ‘structures’ are being created – in the north, centre and south – designed not only to rescue these women from their ‘toxic’ environments, but help them become ‘self-sufficient’.

Público carried the story to mark last Monday’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, citing the number of cries for help received in April and May by the national support network for victims of domestic violence.

At points during the lockdown, the network’s switchboard was dealing with more than twice its usual level of activity. Desperate calls “passed from 2,500 to 5,430” between May 11 -24” for example, and this volume “continued during the following fortnight” – with well over 1,000 of the calls coming from women over the age of 65.

The situation prompted the decision to create specific refuges for elderly women – something that has never been done before.

They are purposely not being called “emergency structures” or “shelters”, as they will be differently-slanted to habitual refuges.

Secretary of State of Equality and Citizenship Rosa Monteiro explained that ideas on how the structures will be focused are still fluid. “We are going to launch these three pilots to try and discover the right methodology”, she told Público.

Each centre will have space for up to 40 elderly women, and finance will be found “in the reprogramming of community funding”.

The plan, involving municipal councils and civic organisations, is to be overseen by the Commission for Citizenship and Equality.

Monteiro stressed that violence against elderly women “is often practised by their own children, daughters or sons in law and/ or other family members.

“They put up with it because they don’t want to imagine a situation in which their children could be jailed, or face charges.

“This is a very particular situation because beyond the increased vulnerability, these people are often very ‘isolated’ in that they have low income levels – and the gap between the pensions of men and women is very significant. Poverty is a factor”, she said.

Coincidentally, the ‘news’ came in a week when social media was alight with images of a 58-year-old man attacking his 90-year-old father with a belt, after a ‘car chase’ between São Martinho de Porto and Alcobaça.

The nonagenarian tried to ‘call for help’ by sounding his car horn as his enraged son repeatedly hit him as the elderly man sat helpless in the driving seat.

The son has since been arrested and charged with GBH and dangerous driving. He is due to be presented in court in Leiria later today.

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