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NEW RESEARCH: Bystander Experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Image shows speech bubble with text: I think it would have been more easily hidden or we might have been distracted from it and we might not have been as proactive or as aware and worried about it if we weren’t in a  pandemic

New research by the Wales Violence Prevention Unit and the University of Exeter indicates that people are more likely to take action against domestic abuse and its warning signs if they feel connected to their community.


The research, funded by Public Health Wales, explored the experiences and behaviours of bystanders to domestic abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic, to help inform policy and bystander intervention training programmes in light of the changes to daily lives brought about by COVID-19 restrictions.

The research surveyed over 180 adults who live or work in Wales. Almost 90% of participants indicated that they felt closer to their communities during the pandemic, and 45% indicated that they felt changes in their routine – such as working from home – as a result of the pandemic had allowed them to become aware of domestic abuse or its warning signs. Of the respondents, the majority who said that they wanted to help members of their community also indicated that they were able to step in and take action against abuse or its warning signs as they not only recognised situations as problematic but because they also knew what to do to help.

The research also highlights the importance of education on what domestic violence and its warning signs look like, and training for people to feel confident to take action when they witness it. Of the survey respondents, all who indicated they had taken action against the abuse they witnessed, also indicated that they felt they possessed the correct skills to know what to say or do.

“The last 18 months have been an incredibly difficult time for many of us, and for some people, where home is not a safe place, it has been frightening and even sometimes dangerous.

“This research shows that despite the pressures and unwanted change that has been put upon all of us during COVID-19, people in Wales have been looking out for one another. Home must be a safe place for everyone, and until we make that happen there is some reassurance in knowing neighbours, friends and colleagues are able to step up for those experiencing abuse, and help them access support.

“Preventing domestic abuse is everybody’s business, and it is important that we use this research to better understand the challenges and motivations of bystanders, so we can support everyone in recognising and safely responding to domestic abuse and its warning signs.”

Jon Drake, Director, Wales Violence Prevention Unit


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Support is available for people experiencing abuse. If someone needs immediate help, they can dial 999 and the police will respond. If they need silent help, they can dial 999 and then dial 55 when prompted by the operator. If it is not an emergency, someone can report an incident to the police by calling 101.

The Live Fear Free helpline is also available 24/7 for people who have experienced or are experiencing domestic abuse or are concerned about a friend or relative:

Helpline: 0808 80 10 800

Text: 078600 77333

Webchat: livefearfree.gov.wales

More Info: gov.wales/live-fear-free

The Respect Phoneline offers help for domestic abuse perpetrators who want to change. The confidential helpline is available Mon-Fri 9am-8pm:

Helpline: 0808 8024040

More info: respectphoneline.org.uk