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  • Author or Editor: Oona Brooks-Hay x
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Increased reports of domestic violence and abuse (DVA) following football matches have been documented, within both quantitative studies and the media, leading to questions about the policy and practice responses required. However, qualitative research facilitating understanding of the apparent link between football and DVA is lacking. Drawing upon research with key stakeholders across England and Scotland, this paper provides a rare insight into their understanding of the contested and complex relationship between football and DVA, including the role of contributory and confounding factors such as alcohol, match expectations, masculinity, entitlement and permissions. It is argued that while football may provide a potential platform for challenging DVA, focusing on football (or other specific factors or events) as causative risks re-incidentalising DVA and detaching it from feminist frameworks that have established DVA as a sustained behaviour grounded in gendered inequalities. This paper concludes by considering the broader conceptual implications of these findings for future research, policy and practice.

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Following lockdowns in countries around the world, reports emerged of a ‘surge’ or ‘spikes’ in the number of domestic violence and abuse cases. It is critical to contextualise this: more men are not starting to be abusive or violent; rather, the patterns of abuse are becoming more frequent. Spiking and surging make us think in terms of more one-off incidents but it is more likely that the pattern of abuse that is already there is increasing in terms of frequency and type because both parties remain together at all times. Amid such a crisis, it is imperative that we continue to see the dynamics of domestic violence and abuse as both a pattern of abusive behaviours and a product of gendered social and cultural norms, rather than a reaction to a specific factor or event, such as COVID-19.

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Reports of an intensification of domestic abuse under COVID-19 restrictions has been described by the UN as a ‘shadow pandemic’. Drawing upon interviews with domestic abuse survivors (n=11), plus interviews (n=18) and surveys (n=22) with support service providers in Scotland, this article develops a nuanced understanding of how the conditions created by the pandemic interacted with existing experiences of domestic abuse, highlighting the relatively overlooked experiences of survivors who have separated from their abusers. The findings reveal how pandemic conditions triggered, mirrored and amplified experiences and impacts of domestic abuse through the complex interplay between isolation, anxiety, lone-parenting, financial concerns and protective requirements such as mask wearing. Participants described an increase in economic abuse, abuse online and the manipulation of child contact arrangements as the restrictions imposed by the pandemic facilitated perpetrator behaviours. However, survivors’ resilience, coping mechanisms, and in some cases enhanced feelings of safety, were also notable. These findings generate insights into the evolving but persistent nature and dynamics of domestic abuse though the pandemic, including how domestic abuse interacts with, creates, and is compounded by gendered inequalities irrespective of whether survivors have separated from their abuser.

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