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Domestic Abuse Service Providers Reflect on Successfully Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic


Domestic Abuse Response during COVID-19

The COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020 brought overnight changes in working conditions for millions of people all over the world. Adapting to this ‘new normal’ was nothing short of a challenge for most; while we clapped on our doorsteps in solidarity with frontline workers, many of us also hurried to make space to work from home, trying to find quiet corners for Zoom calls while juggling the demands of home life, from increased caring responsibilities.

Domestic abuse service providers (DASPs) were one group of frontline workers who had to navigate remote working during lockdown home-life as they continued acting as a source of safety and security for those at elevated risk of harm.

Unsurprisingly, with people unable to leave their homes and find respite from abusive situations, UK domestic abuse charities reported surging numbers of current and former victims accessing services, with spikes of up to 200% reported. DASPs were faced with the unenviable task of managing this growth in demand, coupled alongside acclimatising to the new design and delivery of their service in the wake of covid-related restrictions.

While the news headlines rightly focused on the risk for domestic abuse victims, the conditions and capacity of service providers to support growing demand were largely absent from this concern. Ensuring vital domestic abuse support and assistance can be a challenging feat without the added difficulties of having to undertake such important work via a smartphone or computer screen rather than face to face.


As domestic abuse researchers, we were concerned about the impact of lockdown working conditions on DASPs’ personal and professional wellbeing during this chaotic time.

We were aware of pre-pandemic studies which have highlighted the high rates of stress, burnout, and vicarious traumatisation among frontline crisis practitioners, as well as the obvious concern for domestic abuse victims’ safety during the lockdowns. In tandem with the growing focus on frontline workers’ mental health and sustainability throughout the pandemic, we sought to understand how DASPs coped (or didn’t cope) during the lockdowns while continuing to provide essential services to people in crisis situations.

the authors

Meet the research team behind the Domestic Abuse Service Providers project
Dr Marian Duggan
Dr Marian Duggan
Dr Marian Duggan is Reader in Criminology at the University of Kent. Her research on gender-based violence focuses on preventative policies and socio-legal responses to victims.
Dr Camille Stengel, Nesta*
Dr Camille Stengel, Nesta*
Dr Camille Stengel was a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Greenwich when this research was conducted. Camille now works at the social innovation agency Nesta as Principal Researcher in the Chief Scientist Office.
*Research was carried out while working at the University of Greenwich. Nesta has no affiliation with this research.
Alana Pollock
Alana Pollock
Alana Pollock is a University of Kent Criminology Graduate who joined the project as a research assistant as her interests focus on sexual and domestic violence.

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DASP - Domestic Abuse Service Providers | 2023