Family Violence and COVID-19 – what to do about family violence while isolated at home


As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and in observance of recommendations made by the World Health Organisation (“WHO”) and governments around the world billions of people are under mandatory quarantine or isolation, or are self-quarantining or self-isolating at home to stem the tide of the virus. This is unprecedented in modern times. For many people the act of staying home means adapting settings for school and work and the postponement of social and other events. This is undoubtedly stressful and raises challenges within family relationships. This may be particularly so in Hong Kong where space at home is often limited and multiple generations live in one home.

Beyond the practical and psychological difficulties associated with staying home, for some it poses a risk to their physical safety with the current situation leaving some far more vulnerable to the risk of family violence. Domestic violence charities and helplines around the world have been seeing spikes in reports of violence in the home with the outbreak of COVID-19 prompting governments to implement various lockdown and quarantine measures. This was predicted by numerous advocates with increases in abuse figures commonly seen in crisis situations. Although Hong Kong has not been placed in a mandatory lockdown as have other cities around the world, the Hong Kong Government’s social distancing recommendations are pushing those experiencing family violence further into both physical and emotional isolation.

The Hong Kong Judiciary has extended the General Adjournment Period (“GAP”), with the courts now closed until at least 13 April 2020. However, urgent and essential hearings are still being heard. Applications made under the Domestic and Cohabitation and Relationships Violence Ordinance (Cap. 189) will, depending on the circumstances, likely be considered urgent and essential applications such that they can be made during the GAP.

If you have experienced or are experiencing physical violence or threats of it, psychological violence, sexual, emotional, financial or verbal abuse or harassment of any kind in your home an urgent application can be made to the court for an injunction against your abuser restraining him or her from any further molestation of you and/or your children, and/or ordering that they leave and not re-enter your home.

If you are currently or are at immediate risk of experiencing physical violence, you can call 999 or make a report to your nearest police station. There are also various shelters in Hong Kong in which you may seek refuge in urgent circumstances.

Tanner De Witt has extensive experience in making applications under the DCRVO. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence at home and would like to make an application under the DCRVO, or if you would like to find out more about these applications, please contact Joanne Brown or Philip Swainston on 2573 5000. For more information on DCRVO applications and the process of making a complaint to the police for breaches of orders made under the DCRVO, please see the following articles on our website:

Joanne Brown / Elizabeth Seymour-Jones

The above is not intended to be relied on as legal advice and specific legal advice should be sought at all times in relation to the above.

If you would like to discuss any of the matters raised in this article, please contact:

Joanne Brown
Partner | E-mail

Elizabeth Seymour-Jones
Registered Foreign Lawyer | E-mail

Disclaimer: This publication is general in nature and is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.