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Trainee doctor slayed as domestic violence reports jump amid lockdown

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Trainee doctor slayed as domestic violence reports jump amid lockdown
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Lorena Quaranta was just weeks away from becoming a doctor.

The 27-year-old was passionate about the profession, eagerly completing her studies at home with her boyfriend as the Italian health authorities called for extra help to reinforce a healthcare system struggling to cope with COVID-19.

But three weeks into Italy’s strict coronavirus lockdown, her boyfriend accused her of giving him the virus.

She was found dead and the boyfriend confessed to police, a lawyer involved in the case told Euronews.

Authorities say the incident highlights a worrying increase in domestic violence across Europe.

Millions have been told to stay home – but some now find themselves social isolating with an abusive partner.

"Domestic abuse is all about power and control,” said Suzanne Jacob, chief executive of SafeLives. “This situation exaggerates all of those tenants of domestic abuse."

Countries at the heart of Europe’s outbreak, including Italy and Spain, have reported deaths from domestic violence during weeks of mandatory home confinement.

As early as 19 March – only four days into a national lockdown – Spanish police responded to the murder of a woman killed by her husband in front of their children in the coastal province of Valencia.

Flags were lowered to half-mast and three days of mourning were declared.

In France, calls to police for domestic violence increased by more than 30 per cent during the first few days of lockdown. The biggest increase has come from Paris.

Governments across Europe have treated the problem with different urgency.

Denmark has set aside prepaid hotel rooms for domestic violence victims to get away from their partners.

Other countries are relying on traditional communication platforms, like email, text messages and phone calls.

A programme that uses a code word to subtly ask for help has been introduced in pharmacies in Spain, France Germany, Italy, and Norway.

Support hotlines say calls have increased and victims are taking advantage of the resources at their disposal.

Advocacy groups say there is more that can be done.

“What we need is to hire emergency staff who know how treat domestic violence cases, who can help police,” said Caroline de Haas, a representative from Nous Toutes, a French women’s rights organisation.

“Police are on the front line to intervene because they’re the ones being called. But there’s not enough of them and they’re not trained on this sensitive subject."