Technology is an ever-increasing part of most people’s lives and it has been crucial for the delivery of support by domestic violence and abuse (DVA) services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Paradoxically, this same technology has provided perpetrators with new and growing opportunities to continue or escalate their abusive behaviours. This article draws on the experiences of a specialist DVA service for children and young people (CYP) in the United Kingdom reflecting on the use of technology in service delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. We applied a safety systems approach – a failure modes and analysis (FMEA) to analyse the nature and impacts of service responses. The FMEA shed light on the risks within the environment in which children and young people engage with remote, digital-enabled support. Practitioners, for example, have been unable to determine potential ‘lurking’, whereby other people, including the abusive parent or partner, are present within the room, but out of sight. The FMEA generated 13 ‘corrective actions’ that will be helpful to specialist practitioners supporting children and young people experiencing DVA and to operational managers modifying current services and designing those for the future.
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.