In times of crisis and natural disasters, there is a documented rise in domestic abuse. As normal life shuts down, victims – who are usually women – can be exposed to abusers for long periods of time and cut off from social and institutional support.
We do not yet have comparable EU-wide data but some countries have already provided initial figures showing a spike in domestic violence during lockdown. For example, France saw a 32 % jump in domestic violence reports in just over a week. Lithuania observed 20 % more domestic violence reports over a three-week lockdown period than over the same period in 2019.
Even outside times of crisis, women face the greatest danger from people they know. Globally, 58 % of women who are killed die at the hands of an intimate partner or family member. In the EU, more than a fifth of women have been physically or sexually abused by an intimate partner.
The financial instability that often prevents domestic violence victims from leaving abusers can also worsen in view of job and income losses and a looming recession.
What policymakers need to know
- EU member state policies to address the impact of Covid-19 must keep the issue of gender-based violence as a priority as lockdown measures increase vulnerability.
- EU member states must implement risk management measures involving the police, justice and health sectors to ensure a coordinated response to the increased risk of gender-based violence.
- Data collection on violence against women should be harmonised between EU member states to ensure the phenomenon can be adequately measured and addressed. This would help identify changing patterns of violence in times of crisis.
For more information
 World Health Organization (2005), Violence and disasters
 UNODC (2019), Global study on homicide: Gender-related killing of women and girls
11/12/2020: This reference to the UNODC study was updated because the numbers were incorrect. It used to be: "Globally, 64 % of women who are killed die at the hands of an intimate partner or family member."
 FRA (2014), Violence against women: an EU-wide survey. Main results report