Domestic Abuse During the Pandemic

Making sense of heterogenous data

  • Paul Luca Herbinger Vienna Centre for Societal Security (VICESSE)
  • Norbert Leonhardmair Vienna Centre for Societal Security
Keywords: Domestic Abuse, COVID-19 Pandemic, Coercive Controlling Violence, Lockdown, Domestic Violence Data


From the onset of lockdown measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, experts and frontline responders alike warned of the detrimental impact these measures may have on the prevalence and intensity of Domestic Abuse. Early statistics issued by police and social sector organisations did not always, however, paint a clear picture corroborating this assumption. Data collected during the early stages of the pandemic for a special report to the European Commission by the EU-IMPRODOVA project, indicated similar divergent trends in the effect of lockdown measures on Domestic Abuse. This paper explores four case studies from the IMPRODOVA report (Austria, Finland, Hungry and Portugal) and develops three hypotheses to make sense of heterogenous data on Domestic Abuse during the pandemic. After identifying possible statistical artefacts, as well as socio-legal and sector specific influences on detection and enumeration as probable causes, this paper discusses the centrality of differentiating among types of Intimate Partner Violence as the key to making sense of such heterogenous data. Pointing to the structural analogies between lockdown-settings and Coercive Controlling Violence, we argue that divergence between the stagnation or decline in police data and the universal increase of calls to the social sector, must be understood as the strengthening of perceived control by perpetrators over victims of Domestic Abuse in the short-term during lockdown. By the same logic, service uptake in the medium and long-term can be explained by a perceived loss of control by perpetrators as lockdown measures are relaxed. Finally, we argue that identifying this dynamic of risk and delayed reporting is central to the development of adequate interventions and responses by frontline responders in the ongoing pandemic.       

How to Cite
Herbinger, P., & Leonhardmair, N. (2022). Domestic Abuse During the Pandemic. European Law Enforcement Research Bulletin, (SCE 5), 69-81.
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