Sexual violence and COVID-19: all silent on the home front

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  • 1 University of Birmingham, UK
  • | 2 Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, UK
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In this article, we reflect on the framing of violence against women in mainstream media in the UK, and some policy documents and guidance, in the first four weeks of the COVID-19 induced lockdown. In so doing, we consider the implications associated with the frequent failure to acknowledge sexual violence as a unique, and discrete, element of violence against women. Amid a context of overshadowing and absence, we also raise for debate (and recognition) the likely challenges associated with moving specialist voluntary sector sexual violence organisations into workers’ homes, to enable service provision to continue. In developing our arguments, we draw on conversations with voluntary sector sexual violence practitioners in England and existing literature that highlights the importance of the boundary between home and the job, when working with the ‘taint’ of sexual offences. Such a boundary rapidly recedes when sexual violence services, and their functions, are moved into workers’ living spaces. We set out some of the likely impacts of this changed work context and argue that projections for the resources required to manage COVID-19 in the longer term, must not forget about the needs of frontline voluntary sector workers.

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