The COVID-19 pandemic has produced many visible casualties—seniors in care homes, exhausted health-care workers, boarded up storefronts. But there are also less-visible consequences, which often manifest behind closed doors, including gender-based or domestic violence.
Dr. Lori Brotto, a professor in the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at UBC’s faculty of medicine, is leading a national survey to measure changes in sexual health and the prevalence of gender-based violence during COVID-19.
How is the pandemic affecting sexual behaviour, particularly among couples?
In the early days of the pandemic, there was an assumption that because most people would have more time on their hands, there would be a COVID-19 baby boom in nine months. But if anything, because people are experiencing more stress and more anxiety, the pandemic is likely leading to less sex among couples in Canada.
Is the COVID-19 pandemic to blame for the rise in domestic violence?
Because of the public health measures on physical distancing, people were spending much more time in their homes, and for some, this meant more time with an abusive or violent partner.
In some countries, we have seen a three-fold increase in the prevalence of gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to before the crisis. And we saw similar spikes around the world, including in Canada, during the H1N1 flu outbreak a decade ago. As part of our study, we will be examining this in a Canadian context, and exploring social and gender-based predictors of gender-based violence.
Is COVID-19 a sexually transmitted disease (STD)?
Despite misperceptions in some circles about COVID-19 being an STD, the available evidence suggests that both the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease are not transmitted sexually. However, recent research has found COVID-19 in semen, so further research is required before health-care professionals can fully answer this question.
How are you tracking the sexual health of Canadians during the pandemic?
Right now, my lab at UBC is conducting a national survey to measure changes in sexual health and the prevalence of gender-based violence during COVID-19. The first wave of recruitment recently closed, and we are now following people monthly over time. If you’re experiencing gender-based or domestic violence, please ask for help. You’re not alone.