3. Summary of main findings
While there are some anomalies in the trends identified (particularly in the experience of minority groups), there are several consistent trends reported by services that relate to victims' and children's experience.
The key points emerging from the research are as follows:
- Referral rates for the majority of organisations decreased, significantly for some, in the initial 2-3 weeks of lockdown, but there were some indications that referrals are increasing as lockdown progresses.
- The view of the majority of services was that there may be an increase in reporting and referrals once lockdown restrictions begin to be relaxed.
Support for victims:
- The mental health impact of lockdown was a significant concern for many organisations.
- Digital exclusion was reported as a barrier to engaging with some clients
- Across the board there were continued reports of clients contacting domestic abuse services for general support, particularly around gas and electricity, housing and food access.
Risk and safety planning:
- Many services reported that, although perpetrator tactics did not change significantly, the impact and risk of domestic abuse has been magnified by lockdown.
- The service-generated risks of safely contacting victims who reside with/are being monitored by an abusive partner was a major challenge for many organisations.
- Throughout the initial phase of lockdown, innovative options for safety planning were fairly limited.
- During lockdown, services reported it was more difficult for victims to separate from an abusive partner.
- There are some specific challenges related to lockdown for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) women
- Services consistently communicated a number of concerns related to the impact of amended criminal justice procedures on women's risk of domestic abuse.
- Some services communicated concerns that the "business as usual" message was not being transmitted effectively to victims.
- There were some instances in which perpetrators of domestic abuse used abusive behaviours that were apparently specific to lockdown.
- Services report that, in some cases, children have experienced domestic abuse more severely during lockdown.
- Children's support services reported challenges experienced around engaging with and supporting children remotely.
- Services reported a range of abusive behaviours apparently specific to lockdown related to conflict over chid contact.
- Services reported some ambiguity in the available guidance and legal advice relating to conflict over child contact during lockdown.
Prostitution and Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE):
- Organisations reported a significant economic impact of lockdown for women in prostitution/CSE. Services had concerns that women were entering/re-entering prostitution and CSE as a result of these economic challenges.
- Services reported concerns that, due to the decrease in people in public, women in prostitution were resorting to higher-risk practices
- A number of services report that the stigma associated with working during lockdown prevented women in prostitution from safety planning as effectively as usual.
Experience of support services/organisations:
- Overall, services had limited operational capacity during the initial phase of lockdown.
- As lockdown progressed, many services explored creative ways of engaging with clients.
- Some domestic abuse support staff reported experiencing vicarious trauma.
The remainder of this paper provides additional information on identified trends within each of the identified thematic areas.
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