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The pandemic caused a global surge in domestic violence. For victims with few options, abuse has become the new normal.

“I know how the world looks at someone who is suffering in this way,” said Umm Zeid. “But I can’t talk to anyone,” she said. Her voice cracked. “It’s better that I carry the burden myself, rather than burden the whole family.”

By the time Umm Zeid caught the coronavirus in September, the Jordanian mother of three had spent 18 months losing a battle with what has become known as a shadow pandemic: domestic violence, reports the Washington Post.

Since the first wave of lockdowns, Umm Zeid has suffered in her small home in a city in northeast Jordan. In her 30s, she is a full-time caregiver and part-time teacher for her young children — all alongside bursts of physical and verbal abuse from her husband, who’s been unable to find stable work.

Even as the pandemic eased, and vaccines arrived, she found no relief. The family owed months of unpaid rent; debts only deepened when, despite being vaccinated, she and her husband became sick. She feels that she cannot leave or report the violence, she said, for fear of losing custody of her children and being marked a disgraced woman.

So, like covid-19, the assaults became part of her new normal.

“I know how the world looks at someone who is suffering in this way,” said Umm Zeid, speaking in August on the condition that a nickname be used to protect her identity.

“But I can’t talk to anyone,” she said. Her voice cracked. “It’s better that I carry the burden myself, rather than burden the whole family.”

Nearly two years after the pandemic began and reports of abuse spiked around the globe, the silent suffering of millions of domestic violence victims has become a part of this life. No one knows exactly how many people face domestic violence — it is notoriously underreported — but international surveys point to an increasingly urgent problem that disproportionately affects women.

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