The Shadow Pandemic

The UN named the gendered consequences of COVID 19 isolation restrictions as ‘The Shadow Pandemic… “a perfect storm for controlling, violent behaviour behind closed doors.”.

Media coverage of interventions from NGOs suggest increased demands on services in relation to domestic abuse, but many police forces report difficulty in maintaining sufficient numbers of personnel to carry out policing functions, and acknowledge that victims of domestic abuse are facing increased barriers to reporting.

Local agencies, charities, help groups and police services who have been forced to abandon face-to-face services, are attempting to support vulnerable people in innovative and different ways. Similarly, the criminal courts have struggled to maintain services.

Most courts have been closed during the continuing social isolation period.

The number of trials which have not taken place pose considerable questions about speedy access to justice and, as a result, the experiences of domestic violence victims in the system may more problematic than before.


Professor Sandra Walklate, Professor Barry Godfrey and Dr Jane Richardson have been funded by ESRC to investigate the challenges posed by the lockdown in responding to domestic abuse, the policy innovations put in place in response to these circumstances by the police and the courts, and the potential learning opportunities for practice that might ensue.

It will investigate how victims of domestic violence secured (or did not secure) access to justice during this time.

Project objectives

The research team will provide:

  • A summary of statistics to be disseminated to relevant governmental agencies and media sources and a summary of the innovations made by various police forces to meet demand

  • A fast-delivery series of briefing documents for the social isolation period and immediate aftermath.

  • Recommendations for the provision of online outreach to victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales.

  • Recommendations for the delivery of court services during any future pandemics or national emergencies.

  • A post-pandemic evaluation of changes to practice and a set of recommendations which can be used to mould and direct future general policing and court practices. 

Working papers



Women and the Pandemic

Promotional box for The Emerald Handbook of Feminism, Criminology and Social Change

Find out more about The Emerald Handbook of Feminism, Criminology and Social Change on Emerald Publishing's webpage about Women and the Pandemic. You can also watch Prof Sandra Walklate's video contribution to Women and the Pandemic on YouTube.

The persistent and pernicious problem of domestic abuse has reached new heights during COVID-19. This research provides the much needed evidence base for improved criminal justice responses to this Shadow Pandemic which has impacted upon so many lives.

Professor Dame Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool

Partners and funders

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