During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-2021, a rapidly emerging literature suggests that levels of VAWDASV have been impacted by the COVID-19 public health restrictions, including lockdown, shielding and social distancing regulations (Snowdon et al., 2020). Whilst the full picture of how the pandemic has impacted on VAWDASV is still to fully emerge, it appears likely that both the scale and nature of VAWDASV may have worsened, with rising 55 Wales Violence Prevention Unit VAWDASV Systematic Evidence Assessment helpline contacts for all forms of VAWDASV and increased reports to emergency services in some areas for domestic abuse (Hohl and Johnson, 2020).
Calls to helplines have increased fivefold in some countries as rates of reported IPV have increased because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is referred to as the shadow pandemic, as COVID-19 continues to strain health services, and violence is exacerbated in the home, essential services such as domestic violence shelters and helplines have reached capacity (United Nations, 2021).
Many prevention strategies and programming have been put on hold or been forced to adapt during the pandemic because of restrictions on movement, face to face interactions and public events. However, given the increasing number of reports of VAWDASV during the COVID-19 crisis, it is more important than ever to promote prevention through the transformation of norms, attitudes and stereotypes that accept and normalise violence. Also, while traditional avenues of prevention, such as face to face interactions are limited, new opportunities have emerged, multiple forms of media, online communications and many community mobilisation programmes involve delivering activities virtually (UN General Assembly, 2020), a number of interventions included in this report utilise online platforms (Real Consent and mHealth screening tools); these interventions may have particular relevance where face to face interactions may be limited.
COVID-19 has further exposed VAWDASV as a global emergency requiring urgent action. The pandemic has exposed the failure of efforts to prevent and respond to violence but also the deeply entrenched and systemic nature of VAWDASV.
As the pandemic continues, growing economic and social stress has an impact on everyone, but particularly women who often bear the additional burden of caring responsibilities, are more likely to hold insecure employment, in addition to being at increased risk of violence victimisation in the home. At the same time, restrictions on movement and social isolation measures increase women’s vulnerability to violence and since lockdown measures were introduced, restricted access to support services, friends and family reduce survivors' access to support thus increasing the risk of harm (UN General Assembly, 2020).