Initial reporting of domestic abuse (IRDA) during Covid-19

Research Institution / Organisation

Aston University

In Collaboration With

Bedfordshire Police

Principal Researcher

Dr Emma Richardson

Level of Research

Professional / Work-based

Project Start Date

July 2020

Research Context

Across UK and international governments, the media, charities and helplines, have reported a serious increase in reports of domestic abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic (Bradbury-Jones & Isham, 2020). For example, the charity Refuge reported a 25% increase in requests for help in the first week of the lockdown in the UK (BBC, 2020). However, early data showed that reporting is uneven across services, and much higher for the third sector, than to the police. The pandemic has provided an opportunity to understand how reports of domestic abuse are made directly to the police and how call-takers respond and progress incoming reports.

The project aims are:

  1. To understand the language used by callers as they report domestic abuse directly to the police. 

  2. To assess whether or not reports differ prior to and during the national lockdown, and consider the implications for call handling.

  3. To identify call-taker practices for responding to callers’ reports, and the impact on the call outcomes.

  4. To identify successful call-taker practices and use these to develop research-based training. 

  5. To provide guidance for advertising and promotion of services, to mitigate potential research-identified barriers for victim and witness engagement with services.


For reference:

Antaki, C. (2011). Applied Conversation Analysis: Intervention and Change in Institutional Talk. Palgrave Macmillan.

Bradbury-Jones, C., & Isham, L. (2020). The pandemic paradox: The consequences of COVID‐19 on domestic violence. Journal of Clinical Nursing.

Kelly, J. & Graham, S. (2020, July 23). Coronavirus: Domestic abuse helpline sees lockdown surge. BBC.

Research Methodology

We examine 200 reports of domestic violence made by members of the public to the police via 999 and 101, during and prior to the first national lockdown. The methods for data collection are based in conversation analysis (CA). CA has been used extensively to examine how practitioners deliver their services in a wide variety of environments (Antaki, 2020). CA examines the overall structure of interaction, in terms of its constituent actions, as well as the specifics of, and patterns in, turn design (how a turn of talk is designed to do something), turn-taking (who talks when), action formation (how actions are formed within and across turns of talk), and sequence organization (how actions are organized in a sequence) (Schegloff, 2007). To do this, we take naturally occurring data to examine how practice unfold in real time.

We will analyse the calls to understand how reports are made; how call-takers support callers, and differences between caller reports or call handling in the two time periods. A key aim is to identify practices that can be used by the police to promote contact during times when people are restricted to their homes.

Date due for completion

October 2021
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