Photo of Associate Professor Lesley Murray

Interdisciplinary study to probe surge in gender-based violence driven by lockdowns

University of Brighton associate professor Lesley Murray has received a COVID-19 Rapid Response grant to delve surges in domestic abuse during the COVID crisis.

The £131,485 grant from UK Research and Innovation will support an interdisciplinary team that unites Murray – Associate Professor in Sociology in the university’s pioneering Cities and Injustice Research and Enterprise Group– with Jessica Moriarty, Principal Lecturer in Creative Writing at the university. They will be joined by two experts in criminology from other institutions:

Amanda Holt, Reader in Criminology from University of Roehampton; and Sian Lewis, Lecturer in Criminology from University of Plymouth.

The COVID-19 crisis has seen a surge in reports of domestic abuse – though incidence may be considerably higher for a crime that remains shockingly under-reported. A UN report last June described a worldwide increase in domestic abuse as a “shadow pandemic” that saw many victims trapped at home with their abuser. The national domestic abuse helpline in

the UK received 49% more calls than usual in the week ending 5th April. A survey by Safe Lives reported in The Guardian last November highlighted large rises in victims contacting support services – but also found 61% of survivors said they were unable to seek help during lockdowns “because they weren’t able to access phone or online support, or their perpetrator was with them all the time”.

Associate Professor Murray’s study will focus on better understanding the links between gender-based violence (GBV) and the pandemic restrictions on movement. Through an analysis of existing stories of GBV already in the public domain and original life stories set at different stages of the COVID pandemic, the aim is to produce concrete policies recommendations for the ongoing crisis and beyond.

‘Restriction of movement generated by the pandemic has led to a terrifying increase in gender-based violence. This transdisciplinary project will support women to share experiences of COVID-19 that will help us unravel hidden tragedies and these important stories will enable us to raise awareness, inform policy and generate meaningful and urgent change.’

Previously untold stories will be sought via original life writing from victims of GBV, supported in safe space settings such as creative writing cafes. By bringing together expertise from different fields – sociology, creative writing and criminology – the project will look to address gaps in knowledge and bring fresh understanding to a serious and worsening social issue.

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