SÃO PAULO – One woman is raped every 10 minutes in Brazil, and one is murdered every seven hours, according to a survey of crime statistics in 2021.

Police reports from all states in Brazil compiled by the Brazilian Public Security Forum (BPSF) showed that there were 56,098 cases of rape in the South American country last year, an increase of 3.7 percent from the previous year.

At least 1,319 women were killed in 2021, a slight decrease from 2020, when 1,351 women were murdered.

The study also showed that there was a high number of cases of violence against women during the COVID-19 pandemic. From March of 2020 to December of 2021, 2,451 women were killed and 100,398 cases of rape – with female victims, including minors – were reported.

Monthly data showed that the number of women being murdered rose particularly between February and May of 2020, when social distancing measures were being introduced due to the pandemic.

Most cases of violence against women involve an acquaintance, a relative, or a husband as the perpetrator. A previous BPSF survey showed that 89.9 percent of all murders involving female victims in 2019 were perpetrated by the victim’s husband or ex-husband. Only 2.6 percent of the crimes were committed by a stranger.

“Before the pandemic, men would leave their homes to work and after that they would go to a pub to meet with his friends, they would play soccer, and so on. With the quarantine, they had to stay home. A closer coexistence with their families resulted in more violence,” said Sister Ivone Gebara, a longtime feminist theologian and activist in Brazil.

“Even the children suffered more, being victims of beating and rape at home,” she added.

That is something that the members of the Women’s Pastoral Ministry of the Episcopal Region of Brasilândia in the Archdiocese of São Paulo said they observed during their daily work. A poor district in the northern part of the city, Vila Brasilândia suffered not only with social distancing measures, but also with the consequences of the economic crisis created by the pandemic, which caused high unemployment.

“The women remained closed inside their houses with their aggressors – mostly their husbands, but also a son, a grandson, or another male relative,” Carmen Araújo Lisboa, a member of the Women’s Pastoral Ministry, told Crux.

The group helps women who have been facing domestic violence, at times even taking them to shelters. But the ministry’s main role is to raise awareness among women.

“Our goal is to prevent cases of domestic violence and femicide. We have to help the women to understand that they are able to change their situation,” Lisboa said.

During their meetings, the members of the women’s ministry discuss the common problems that the neighborhood women face at home and suggest solutions. Women are encouraged to go back to school, and the group’s activities include training women to develop professional skills. The idea is that they can generate income in order to be less dependent on their husbands and rebalance power in their marriage.

If violence is already happening, the women are advised to take legal measures. “In such cases, you cannot pretend that nothing wrong is happening only to keep your marriage. But we really work to avoid things getting to that point,” Lisboa said.

Bishop Ricardo Hoepers of Rio Grande, who heads the Bishops’ Conference’s Episcopal Pastoral Commission for Life and Family, told Crux that it has been possible to observe how the pandemic exacerbated already existing family crises.

“We understand that such problems are a consequence of a larger crisis. Families have been unstructured by a consumerist society in which people treat each other as objects and by the relativization of love, replaced by sexual adventures,” he said.

Hoepers said that his commission is beginning to work with families at early stages in order to form them according to Catholic principles.

“Our idea is to make people understand marriage as a process of self-knowledge, accompanied by couples of catechists able to help them deepen their ties,” he explained.

One of the targets of the family pastoral ministries must be tackling misogyny, described by Hoepers as “the impulse of dominating the other, who is considered to be somehow inferior.”

“The idea that the woman is inferior to man is not in the Bible. Jesus affirmed that they have equal dignity,” he said.

With the intervention of family pastoral ministries in different regions of the country, families that had been devastated by hatred and violence were able to rebuild trust and love, Hoepers said.

“The only way of dealing with those problems is to offer to the families an experience which is different from the one the world provides. The church has to be the family of the families,” the bishop added.