EU states received a 60 per cent increase in emergency calls about intimate partner violence during the first wave of COVID-19 lockdowns in early 2020. The alarming trend resulted from the emotional and financial strain brought on by the measures implemented to curb the pandemic. Curfews and stay-at-home orders further made it difficult for victims to leave an abusive household, increasing the likelihood of recurring violence.

In reaction to this rise in violence, termed the 'shadow pandemic,' there was a welcome and phenomenal upsurge in support and attention for victims. As many as 228 related measures were implemented across the 27 EU member states in the first months of the outbreak.

A recent RAND Europe study examined the implications of COVID-19 for victims of intimate partner violence and found that the level of support for domestic violence services was, and remains, insufficient to address the challenges that frontline staff face. The huge effort to keep support services going for victims, often in situations where a life was at stake, took its toll on the people who provided it.

The initial shift to a remote model for service delivery posed many practical challenges, including ensuring adequate access for staff to the necessary technology, internet, and phone reception for consistent support.

The privacy and security of victims when providing support was vital, yet most of the standard online conferencing software did not provide the level of privacy needed, leading some services to hire relevant staff specifically to manage these concerns. In addition, staff often had no training to provide the new text-based messaging and email support services that were introduced.

At the same time, staff were confronted by a dramatic increase in demand for their services while the pandemic had a significant effect on the availability of staff, not only due to sickness and self-isolation but also such factors as a lack of public transport, childcare issues, and poor internet access or phone reception.

Read the full article about domestic violence by Shann Hulme and Lillian Flemons at RAND Corporation.