Covid-19 led to an increase in reports of domestic abuse in Bristol, Somerset and South Gloucestershire, according to a new study.
This research is part of Project Bluestone, a government funded initiative in England and Wales to improve the way rape and serious sexual offences are investigated.
Researchers from Middlesex, Suffolk and Bournemouth universities studied thousands of anonymised reports of rape and serious sexual offences and domestic abuse on the police’s crime reporting system between January 2018 and December 2020.
The project aimed to see how the pandemic impacted reporting rates of rape and serious sexual offences and domestic abuse, particularly during the lockdown.
The period of Covid-19 lockdown between March to Dec 2020 shows that on average weekly domestic abuse levels were higher than the previous period (2018 – to the first 13 weeks of 2020).
Lockdown measures may have “shutdown support systems” for people at risk and worsened domestic issues, according to the research report,
It stated: “Financial strains, loss of work, food insecurity, worsened mental health, stress, reduced social support, and alcohol abuse are well documented risk factors for violence in the home that are likely increased by (lockdown) measures imposed.”
Dr Ruth Spence, a Research Fellow at Middlesex University who co-authored the report, said: “The lockdown was an extremely stressful time where people were kept indoors and unable to escape from one another as they normally would to diffuse arguments and tensions.
“The potential for confrontations with loved ones which could end in violence increased significantly because of this environment and this has been demonstrated in our research which shows a rise in reports of domestic abuse in Avon and Somerset during the lockdown period.
“We would urge authorities and policy makers to be aware of this crime trend and put in place measures to protect those most at risk of domestic violence in the event of another lockdown.”
The research team was made up of Dr Spence, Prof Horvath and Charlotte Dalton from the University of Suffolk, and Kari Davies from Bournemouth University.
The study - Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on reporting of rape, serious sexual offences, and domestic abuse in one English police force – has been peer reviewed and published in the Journal of Gender Based Violence.