Domestic Violence in Mongolia During COVID-19: One Mother’s Story

In late March, Bolormaa* arrived at one of the domestic violence shelters Holt donors support in Mongolia. She had three young children with her.

While Bolormaa had suffered abuse from her husband throughout their marriage, after the latest incident, she had the courage to reach out to a social worker in her community for help. The social worker immediately found a place for her and her children at the shelter.

Across Mongolia, and around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in domestic violence toward women and children. The stress of lost jobs, stay-at-home orders and social isolation have contributed to this global rise in abuse cases, especially in more impoverished communities. As families struggle to feed their children and pay their rent, family members are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol — and more likely to commit acts of violence.

Since COVID-19 hit Mongolia, the number of cases reported to the National Center for Domestic Violence rose to 425 or by 26%. Calls for emergency services rose by 39%.

“The risk level was very high in these violent circumstances,” our staff reports.

How Sponsors and Donors Help

When Bolormaa and her children arrived at the shelter in late March, early in the pandemic, each received a medical checkup. When her youngest child was found to have a severe burn injury on her bottom from hot water, doctors at the trauma and injury hospital treated her with medication and ointment — healing the burn.

At the shelter, Bolormaa and her children received food, clothing and a warm, safe bed — all provided with support from the Holt sponsors and donors who give to Holt’s programs in Mongolia.

Since COVID-19 hit Mongolia, the number of cases reported to the National Center for Domestic Violence rose to 425 or by 26%. Calls for emergency services rose by 39%.

The children attended a child support group where they could share their feelings and learn ways to cope with the trauma they had experienced in a violent home. Bolormaa also attended a leadership training where she learned coping skills and built confidence to overcome her past and create the future she wants for her children.

One key service that the domestic violence shelters provide is legal aid to help women secure a divorce from an abusive spouse. They can also help with child custody and child support matters. Once Bolormaa went through the court system with support from the shelter’s legal counsel, she was awarded full custody of her children and set to receive child support from her husband.

Where They Are Today

During their month-long stay, the shelter staff identified a safe place for Bolormaa and her children to live — a traditional Mongolia home called a “ger” that was provided by the local government. They also enrolled Bolormaa’s children in Holt’s child sponsorship program — matching them with a sponsor who would help meet their basic needs once they left the shelter.

Today, Bolormaa and her children are safe and living together in their own home. The shelter staff visits them regularly to ensure their wellbeing. And through their generous monthly gifts, their sponsor helps provide everything the children need to grow and thrive in the loving care of their mom.

Bolormaa’s story is similar to many of the women who stay at the three shelters that Holt sponsors and donors support in Mongolia. But due to the rise in domestic violence cases since the beginning of the pandemic, the shelters need help meeting the needs of the many women and children who come into care.

Here are three ways you can help:

PROVIDE A NIGHT OF SAFETY: Give a one-time Gift of Hope to help a woman and her children escape a violent situation.

GIVE TO THE SHELTERS IN MONGOLIA: Contact Holt donor representatives Gina Hedberg at (320) 224-0610 or [email protected] or Courtney Hohenlohe-Langenburg at (541) 868-5048 or [email protected] to make a designated gift to help women and children at the Holt-supported domestic violence shelters in Mongolia.

Read a Q&A on domestic violence in Mongolia during COVID-19.

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