The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) and New Perimeter, an affiliate of DLA Piper, collaborated on this report about worsening rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report provides a rapid review of published and gray literature and highlights a number of interventions that are both innovative and hold promise, from efforts to increase awareness and reporting of abuse, to ensuring access of survivors to support services, health sector responses, and reforms designed to improve the delivery of justice.
Given the complexity of the underlying drivers of IPV, appropriate responses need to cover multiple sectors, with civil society and women’s organizations playing a critical role. There is encouraging evidence of innovative public-private partnerships being used to rapidly mobilize resources and deliver urgently needed services. The most promising responses of governments and civil society organizations fall under a series of fronts, which will often need to be addressed concurrently, depending on the context. The emerging priorities have become especially acute in the midst of the pandemic – when some women are locked down with perpetrators. Many of these responses hold true for the longer term, beyond the lockdown and pandemic:
- Boosting public awareness and outreach. Public awareness campaigns about the risk of violence, options for survivors, and how to respond should make broad use of digital and social media, alongside traditional avenues of communication such as print and radio to reach women lacking digital access.
- Innovating mechanisms available for reporting. Especially in the context of lockdowns, important innovations for reporting have included targeted technologies like IPV-specific mobile applications with enhanced safety features, and non-traditional ways for survivors to seek help confidentially, including code words and signals.
- Expanding housing and shelter options. To enable survivors to leave abusive relationships, alternative housing options are needed. Efforts on this front have included public-private partnerships with hotels, as well as enabling traditional shelters to remain open during the pandemic and extending public housing benefits to IPV survivors.
- Ensuring adequate health sector responses. Services for survivors, including psycho-social services, need to be regarded as essential. Healthcare providers should be sensitized to recognize IPV risk factors and adapt responses to the needs of survivors.
- Fostering economic independence. Given the link between economic stressors during the COVID-19 pandemic and increased risk of IPV, social protection and assistance programs should explicitly consider ways to reduce the risk of violence.
- Supporting law enforcement and judicial interventions. Pathways to justice for IPV survivors should remain open during the pandemic – including keeping courts open for IPV matters and relaxing procedural rules to permit survivors to file and/or appear in court from a remote setting.
- Advancing monitoring and evaluation efforts. It is important to continue multilateral efforts to track innovations and good practice and to capture evidence about the efficacy of interventions and responses.