Domestic Abuse: Responding to the Shadow Pandemic

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Sch of Law and Social Justice

Abstract

The eradication of violence against women is a global aim (UN SDG 16). Globally, pandemics notwithstanding, domestic abuse costs around$4.4 trillion a year or just over 5% of the annual global GDP (Hoeffler and Fearon 2014). In the UK domestic abuse-related crime routinely constitutes about a tenth of all the crimes recorded by the police and a third of all crimes recorded where there is an assault with injury (HMIC 2015). More than half of the calls to police are repeat complaints of violence against women (ONS 2018). Efforts to address domestic abuse notwithstanding it is evident that government restrictions on mobility and the necessity for social isolation during the COVID 19 pandemic have exacerbated violence against women in ways which are not yet fully understood.

Under lockdown considerable media coverage has intimated the likely impact of the 'stay at home' directive on the nature and extent of domestic abuse. Evidence suggests that this has already taken its toll on the rates of intimate partner homicide (Ingala Smith 2020). Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, has stated that confinement is fostering tension and strain created by security, health and money worries; and is increasing isolation for women with violent partners. She described the situation as "a perfect storm for controlling, violent behaviour behind closed doors." UN Women (2020) naming the gendered consequences of COVID 19 isolation restrictions as 'The Shadow Pandemic'.

Media coverage of interventions from NGOs suggest increased demands on services. There was an increase of 49% in domestic abuse reports to police forces immediately preceding the social isolation period (17th April 2020, Guardian); and the Home Affairs Committee Preparedness for Covid-19 reported on 24th April 2020 that responding to the rise in violence is being further complicated by the fact the institutions are already under a huge strain from the demands of dealing with the pandemic itself. Many forces report difficulty in maintaining sufficient numbers of personnel to carry out policing functions. Similarly, the criminal courts have struggled to maintain services. Most courts have been closed during the continuing social isolation period, and those that are open have prioritised bail and remand decisions (including many who are alleged to have committed acts of domestic violence); and continue to try cases and sentence serious acts of violence. The number of trials which have not taken place pose considerable questions about speedy access to justice and, as a result the experiences of domestic violence victims in the system. To date, media coverage aside, there is little systematic documentation and/or evidence addressing how the criminal justice system (particularly the police and courts) are managing and responding to the nature and extent of domestic abuse during the social isolation period. This project is therefore concerned with the challenges posed for criminal justice practitioners by lockdown, the policy innovations put in place in response to these circumstances, the potential learning opportunities for practice that might ensue, and how victims of domestic violence secured or did not secure access to justice. The rapid response methods employed will ensure that recommendations are given to CJS agencies within a very short period of time, and these will enable better justice for victims of domestic abuse.
 
Description Submission to the UK Parliament Home Affairs Committee Inquiry into Home Office preparedness for Covid-19, January 2021.
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Submission to the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights in respect of the Government's response to COVID-19: Human Rights implications.
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner Submission: COVID-19 and the increase of domestic violence against women
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description ESRC Festival of Science Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation of project finding paying particular attention to doing rapid research and associated methods during a pandemic
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Engagement and Dissemination Website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact This is a freely accessible and publicly available repository of our research findings, working papers and other open access and relevant literatures
https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/law-and-social-justice/research/coronavirus-research/the-shadow-pandemic/working-papers/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
URL https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/law-and-social-justice/research/coronavirus-research/the-shadow-pandemic...
 
Description N8 Conference: Policing Vulnerability 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dissemination of research findings relevant to policing participants (and others) across the N8 constituency
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Research dissemination to participants 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact DA and Covid Research Summary; Innovating During A Pandemic. Document shared with all research participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Stakeholder Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation to Police Regional Leads and Stakeholders for Domestic Abuse, 8th September 2020. Dissemination of key research findings June to September 2020
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Stakeholder Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation to Police Regional Leads and Stakeholders for Domestic Abuse, 2nd December 2020.Project Update Focusing on MARACs
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020