A team from the University of the West of Scotland, which has a campus in Dumfries, is to look at the experiences of domestic abuse helpline service users and staff over the last year.
They want to explore the impact of lockdown measures on those living with domestic abuse, while also examining the impact of increased service demand on the wellbeing of helpline staff.
The project will identify any changes in the frequency, severity, and nature of abuse, importantly considering the impact of and on children within the home, and the consequent impact on service users’ mental health and wellbeing.
And it will help determine the support needs of those living with domestic abuse, as well as examining the long-term consequences of the pandemic.
Principal investigator Dr Zara Brodie, a lecturer in psychology, said: “Mobility restrictions enforced by the UK Government in March 2020 resulted in those vulnerable to domestic abuse being confined in isolation with their abusers, deprived of safe spaces or opportunities for help or support. This saw a spike in engagement with domestic abuse helplines during lockdown, but little is known about the nature of these calls, the experiences of service users during lockdown, or the impact of this surge on domestic abuse helpline staff, which is what our research aims to investigate.
“Initial reports illustrate that lockdown measures have been associated with a substantial increase in the prevalence and severity of domestic abuse. However, no research has examined potential changes in the nature of this abuse, or the impact of lockdown on victims and others in the home. This is important to aid in the development of support plans for victims of abuse going forward.”
Dr Brodie, alongside Dr Roxanne Hawkins and Dr Chloe MacLean from UWS, is working directly with several domestic abuse helplines to gain understanding of the lived impact of lockdown on their service users and staff.
The research team stated: “Given that the impact of Covid-19 on those living with domestic abuse will far outlive the virus itself, findings from this research will act as a crucial guide for policy decision-making on the support needs emerging from the pandemic and beyond.”
The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19 and is expected to take 18 months.
Participants are required for the study and anyone from Dumfries and Galloway who has been affected by domestic abuse and would like to take part is urged to visit domesticabusecovid.questionpro.com to find out more and sign up.
For support with domestic abuse, go to:
Scottish Women’s Rights Centre: www.scottishwomensrightscentre.org.uk/
Abused Men in Scotland: abusedmeninscotland.org/
Victim Support: www.victimsupport.org.uk/