Publication - Research and analysis

Coronavirus (COVID-19): domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls during Phase 3 of Scotland's route map (11 August – 11 October)

Published: 5 Nov 2020

This report presents qualitative evidence on the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on people experiencing domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women/girls.

20 page PDF

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20 page PDF

522.6 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls during Phase 3 of Scotland's route map (11 August – 11 October)

20 page PDF

522.6 kB


1. The Scottish Government published 'Coronavirus (COVID-19): Framework for Decision Making: Scotland's Route Map through and out of the crisis' on 21 May 2020 Scotland entered Phase 1 on 28 May; Phase 2 on 19 June; and Phase 3 on 10 July and A Phase Three route map update on 30 July confirmed schools would reopen on 11 August


3. This is consistent with reported domestic crime statistics for Scotland.

4. Scottish Women's Aid advised that local centres were unable to participate in the research due to prioritising frontline work.

5. Some research suggests victims of domestic abuse do not always engage in specialist services. SafeLives Whole Lives Survivor Survey 2020, for example, found that "67% of victims had never accessed support from a specialist domestic abuse practitioner". Other research by SafeLives found that in England and Wales, 61% of victims of domestic abuse did not seek support during the Coronavirus lockdown (

6. Some services perceived that an increased awareness of the risks of domestic abuse had resulted in increased referrals to specialist services.

7. SafeLives' (2020, 'Safe at Home in Scotland Survivor Consultation') research found the most common thing survivors required support with during the Coronavirus crisis was their mental health. This research identified isolation as a major factor in victims' mental ill health.

8. One service manager reported that women were presenting to the service in crisis following incidents which may not have previously resulted in the same level of trauma, such as an abusive text message or a verbal accusation by the perpetrator.

9. One of the services noted an increase in referrals relating to non-recent sexual abuse, which clients indicated was due to the isolation period causing escalations in their trauma and feeling the need to seek support as a result.

10. Research by SafeLives (ibid.) also evidenced victims' desire for more stringent legal protections to protect against abuse.

11. Research by SafeLives (ibid.) also evidenced victims' reluctance to report to the police due to it being perceived as "inappropriate (during lockdown)".

12. Many women are also reluctant to report criminal behaviour by customers to the police outwith the Coronavirus crisis due to other factors (such as stigma, historically poor responses etc.)

13. Supporters are either family or friends who attend to provide emotional support to the victim/witness or volunteers/staff from support organisations who attend in this capacity.

14. This may be explained by the higher coverage of specialist advocacy services for these courts, rather than queues at these courts being longer than elsewhere, i.e. advocacy services for other sheriffdoms are either not represented in this research or do not exist in certain areas. However consistent reports were communicated by one service with national coverage.

15. One organisation provided an empirical example of a victim who was reluctant to report abuse to the police because she feared repercussions as the perpetrator had been residing with her, despite having separate accommodation, and was therefore breaching Coronavirus restrictions due to not formally residing at the address.

16. FollowIt is a smartphone application designed and developed by Rape Crisis Scotland and the Scottish Women's Rights Centre, which allows victims to securely store/record information about stalking incidents.

17. Some schools would allow children to leave for planned sessions, however children could not return; some schools did not allow practitioners into the building; some would not allow children to engage in group work with children from other schools.

18. One project has been offering adapted recovery support and working one-to-one with mother and child(ren) in person; another was offering in-person group work, but had reduced the number of sessions offered; and some have been/were starting to offer virtual group work recovery support.

19. This was frequently reported during the initial lockdown between March and May 2020.

20. Research by SafeLives (ibid.) on survivors' experience during lockdown also evidenced the extension of abuse by perpetrators via or during child contact.

21. Touring involves women travelling to a destination specifically for sex work.

22. Organisations noted that it was extremely rare for women to report such abuse to police. Some women stated they report to health services and/or the National Ugly Mugs database.

23. Organisations provided that there was some evidence of groups of men working together to 'target' women online, coercing them into sharing or selling the image to a member of the group who then circulated it to others.