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Quantifying domestic violence in times of crisis : an internet search activity-based measure for the COVID-19 pandemic Dan Anderberg, Helmut Rainer and Fabian Siuda

By: Anderberg, Dan.
Contributor(s): Rainer, Helmut | Siuda, Fabian.
Material type: materialTypeLabelArticleSeries: Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A (Statistics in Society).Publisher: Royal Statistical Society, 2021Subject(s): COVID-19 | DATA ANALYSIS | DOMESTIC VIOLENCE | INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE | PANDEMICS | PREVALENCE | TECHNOLOGY | INTERNATIONAL | UNITED KINGDOM | UNITED STATESOnline resources: DOI: 10.1111/rssa.12780 (Open access) In: Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A (Statistics in Society), 2021, First published online, 10 December 2021Summary: In contrast to widespread concerns that COVID-19 lockdowns have substantially increased the incidence of domestic violence, research based on police-recorded crimes or calls-for-service has typically found small and often even negligible effects. One explanation for this discrepancy is that lockdowns have left victims of domestic violence trapped in-home with their perpetrators, limiting their ability to safely report incidents to the police. To overcome this measurement problem, we propose a model-based algorithm for measuring temporal variation in domestic violence incidence using internet search activity and make precise the conditions under which this measure yields less biased estimates of domestic violence problem during periods of crisis than commonly used police-recorded crime measures. Analysing the COVID-19 lockdown in Greater London, we find a 40% increase in our internet search-based domestic violence index at the peak occurring 3–6 weeks into the lockdown, -seven to eight times larger than the increase in police-recorded crimes and much closer to the increase in helpline calls reported by victim support charities. Applying the same methodology to Los Angeles, we find strikingly similar results. We conclude that evidence based solely on police-recorded domestic violence incidents cannot reliably inform us about the scale of the domestic violence problem during crises like COVID-19. (Authors' abstract). Record #7427
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Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A (Statistics in Society), 2021, First published online, 10 December 2021

In contrast to widespread concerns that COVID-19 lockdowns have substantially increased the incidence of domestic violence, research based on police-recorded crimes or calls-for-service has typically found small and often even negligible effects. One explanation for this discrepancy is that lockdowns have left victims of domestic violence trapped in-home with their perpetrators, limiting their ability to safely report incidents to the police. To overcome this measurement problem, we propose a model-based algorithm for measuring temporal variation in domestic violence incidence using internet search activity and make precise the conditions under which this measure yields less biased estimates of domestic violence problem during periods of crisis than commonly used police-recorded crime measures. Analysing the COVID-19 lockdown in Greater London, we find a 40% increase in our internet search-based domestic violence index at the peak occurring 3–6 weeks into the lockdown, -seven to eight times larger than the increase in police-recorded crimes and much closer to the increase in helpline calls reported by victim support charities. Applying the same methodology to Los Angeles, we find strikingly similar results. We conclude that evidence based solely on police-recorded domestic violence incidents cannot reliably inform us about the scale of the domestic violence problem during crises like COVID-19. (Authors' abstract). Record #7427