May 22, 2020

Global Perspectives on the Impact of COVID-19 on Domestic and Interpersonal Violence

Florence Seemungal
Visiting Academic
University of Oxford

The Domestic Violence Evidence and Practice Network is a collaboration of multidisciplinary researchers and practitioners from The University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, and the University of the West Indies Open Campus. Our network members are psychologists, social workers, lawyers, and criminologists and are located in Barbados, Trinidad, Australia, New Zealand, India and the UK.

We undertake cutting edge-research and share our evidence with practitioners for policy creation and evaluation. We are guided by the needs of society in our research endeavours.  On May 6th 2020, we held an international online workshop on the impact of COVID-19 on domestic and interpersonal violence across the world, where we explored how Covid-19 related policies and laws relating to confinement, stay at home orders and the early release of prisoners have led to concerns over the protection of the vulnerable in the domestic domain. Some countries noted a sharp increase in domestic and inter-personal violence reports by victims to government and non-governmental agencies. Our workshop presentations summarised Network members’ on-going research which we will follow up with a fuller discussion and more formal seminar presentations in Oxford later in the year.

We are delighted to bring you some of the presentations from the workshop on May 6th, as part of InsightsOnline. If you would like to find out more about the Network, please contact me: or

Intimate partner violence in teen relationships: Insights from metasynthesis. Dr Sarah Bekaert, Oxford Brookes University.

There is a growing body of international evidence relating to intimate partner violence (IPV) in teenage relationships which emphasises the parallel and unique effects for teenagers as compared to across the life-course. Negative personal health and social effects are manifold, and, for pregnant teenagers, episodes of IPV are linked to negative pregnancy outcomes.  This presentation brings together findings from two literature reviews; one regarding the experience of IPV in teenage relationships and the other teenage mothers' experience of IPV.  The presentation discusses how the experience of IPV among teenagers is frequently located in a context of gendered expectations, family disruption, gang involvement, and community violence.  The role of digital media in perpetrating harassment, threat and control is notable. Adolescent development is considered both a rationale for tolerating IPV in a relationship, but also, with time, for avoiding, or extricating from, a negative relationship. Barriers to seeking support are discussed.  IPV in teen relationships should be viewed as a public health concern which practitioners should recognise and be equipped to offer trauma-informed response and support. 

Unseen victims: Understanding and meeting the needs of gay and bisexual male victims of intimate partner violence. Joseph Patrick McAuley, DPhil Candidate in Criminology, University of Oxford.

Gay and bisexual (GB) men are frequently left out of the conversation regarding intimate partner violence (IPV), and this silence has implications for how these men recognise abuse, navigate violent relationships, and potentially attempt to leave. Moreover, their status as sexual minorities ensures that their experiences of intimate partner violence take place in a context radically different from that of heterosexual men or women.

In this presentation, I will consider four broad issues:

- The barriers GB men have in identifying and recognising abuse within their relationships.

- The barriers GB men have in attempting to navigate help-seeking.

- The challenges of conducting research instruments and designing interventions for sexual minorities.

- The effects the Covid-19 pandemic has had on GB male victims of IPV.

I will conclude by outlining some potential strategies for overcoming these barriers.

Rape adjudication in India: A reflection of female autonomy or a reinforcement of stereotypes. Aradhana Cheruparavadekkethi, M.Phil Student, Law, University of Oxford

The December 16, 2012, Delhi gang-rape case sparked a sorely-needed debate in India on the issues of consent in rape law, leading to the 2013 criminal amendment to rape law.  In my presentation, I will  be discussing my MPhil thesis findings - my thesis undertakes a comprehensive analysis of Indian judicial decisions adjudicating rape, to ascertain (whether and) how underlying preconceptions and prejudices (continue to) percolate through rape cases in a variety of settings (despite the 2013 amendment). Using direct evidence from the cases I have studied, I will present the argument that the judicial discourse reveals that the complete silence on concepts such as bodily integrity/sexual autonomy, the lack of engagement with the new definition of consent, the emphasis on factors like absence of resistance, and the dominance of stereotypes in the post-2013 law judgments indicate that there is a huge disconnect between the Parliament’s intention and the Judiciary’s implementation.

Domestic violence in Trinidad and Tobago: Protective rights and international treaty obligations. Professor Florence Seemungal, Visiting Academic, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies,University of Oxford; Adjunct Staff, Undergraduate Academic Programming and Delivery Division, University of the West Indies, Open Campus. 

This presentation examines the current incidence and nature of domestic violence recorded in Trinidad and Tobago, based on agency reports. The discussion focuses on an evaluation of the extent to which Trinidad and Tobago fulfils its international obligations to promote and enforce the protective rights of citizens against domestic violence. A summary of the relevant international treaties signed by Trinidad and Tobago will be outlined followed by a review of the country’s performance targets and treaty obligations. This review includes data from needs assessment and status reports of Trinidad and Tobago by the United Nations. The presentation contains a discussion of how Covid-19 related policies and laws relating to confinement, stay at home orders and the early release of prisoners have led to concerns over the protection of the vulnerable in the domestic domain. The measures taken by the Government and agencies in Trinidad and Tobago to mitigate the problem, to address concerns and to support victims are outlined. 

Decolonising responses to family violence in Aotearoa New Zealand. Penny Ehrhardt, Senior Associate, Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, Victoria University (New Zealand); DPhil student, University of Oxford.

Aotearoa, New Zealand has among the highest reported rates of family violence in the developed world. Recognition that criminal justice centred responses are inadequate has grown. In this presentation I outline political, legislative, policy, research and programme based responses, including the Government's Joint Venture on Family Violence and Sexual Violence. which brings together at least 10 government agencies working on family and sexual violence, as well as tribal and civil society to support an integrated response. I outline the promises and challenges posed by the Family Violence Death Review who last week released a report calling for the decolonisation of failed Eurocentric systems of family violence response, and recommending widespread structural change. I examine the reasons for their plea, and ask about the likelihood of it succeeding. 

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