The Shadow Pandemic: Violence Against Women in Lockdown

The Shadow Pandemic: Violence Against Women in Lockdown

The School of Arts have teamed up with WoWFest2021, with students from across the School previewing events from this festival of radical writing, taking place throughout May. 

Lauren Metcalf (English, year 2) previews ‘The Shadow Pandemic: Violence Against Women in Lockdown’, Thursday 6 May, 6 pm. Tickets £4/£2 concessions.

There is no disputing that Coronavirus has itself been devastating to the population, but by bringing the nation to a halt, it has also caused other issues to intensify. The instruction to ‘stay at home’ left many women feeling trapped. For them, this ‘dangerous’ outside world might represent safety. 

Domestic violence is happening all over the world, in different forms and to all manner of women and girls. This public-health crisis is largely undocumented, with many women too scared to report their issues to the authorities. But even with only the reported figures, 243 million females have lived through violation. When will women and girls stop being seen as inferior, or as property? The outbreak of Coronavirus has caused the momentum towards equality to tail off. But now more than ever, attention needs to be brought to how we can help the victims of sexual and intimate-partner violence, and how we can educate the perpetrators.

In the four months that followed the first UK national lockdown (March to June 2020), there was a 7% rise in domestic violence cases from the same period in the year before (259,324 reported cases in 2020 compared to 242,413 in 2019). In May 2020, one fifth (20%) of all cases reported to the police were flagged as domestic violence. The indoor conditions that the nation has been forced into have enabled this other infection to proliferate, and the long-term effects of this regression cannot yet be estimated.  

Although the spectrum of assault is vast, sexual assault is one of the more widely talked about forms of domestic abuse. Many things that were ‘accepted’ in the past are no longer tolerated. Author and activist Winnie M Li recently addressed the issue of consent and sexual assault through the arts at the Clear Lines Festival. This method of tackling the topic is accessible, and can provide information in many forms, so that everyone can be involved in building a safer future.   

For many Brits, when thinking about domestic abuse, female genital mutilation (FGM) is often not at the forefront of discussion. In fact, many will not associate it with their own country. But this is false. FGM is a British problem too, and campaigner Hibo Wardere aims to educate people about this practice, which should be eradicated. The disfigurement of a woman or girl alters their life brutally and drastically. Lockdown has enabled this problem to be swept further under the carpet, so foundations such as Gill Moglione’s charity Savera are paramount in helping with the discussion of FGM, as well as providing confidential support and advice. This is such a consequential issue, and knowledge of it needs to be more widespread in the UK.

The increase of domestic abuse illustrates the need for education on all issues surrounding the crime, and especially how to help the half of the world’s population who are enduring these injustices. Currently this shadow pandemic is being covered by a bigger issue, but it needs to be realised that more than one problem can be dealt with at a time. Individual suffering is not rendered unimportant because of more prominent circumstances. 

This discussion is important. How can we aid the pandemic within the pandemic? No doubt some of the solutions will be considered in this event.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this preview or by the event, the following organisations may be able to provide help and advice:


Savera UK

0800 1070726


National Domestic Abuse Helpline

0808 2000247




Women’s Aid


Men’s Advice Helpline

0808 8010327


Sources for statistics:

Amanda Taub, ‘A New Covid-19 Crisis: Domestic Abuse Rises Worldwide’, The New York Times, April 2020:


‘Domestic Abuse During the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic’, The Office for National Statistics, November 2020