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The “epidemic within the pandemic”: meeting the needs of racially minoritised women experiencing domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic

Severyna Magill (Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 8 December 2022




In March 2020, the UK entered its first lockdown responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the same month, the Domestic Abuse Bill had its first reading in Parliament. Charities and non-governmental organisations critiqued the Bill for failing to protect migrants from domestic abuse, and not complying with the Istanbul Convention. Drawing on interviews with staff from Southall Black Sisters, this paper aims to foreground the experiences of practitioners within the women’s sector to explore the unique experiences and challenges migrant and racially minoritised women encountered when seeking support from domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic. It highlights how the pandemic-related lockdowns created barriers to accessing support services and housing, creating an epidemic within the pandemic, and how minoritised women and the organisations that supported them had to overcome structural barriers and racism.


In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with staff from a leading women’s organisation that supports migrant and racially minoritised women. Four participants were asked questions within four themes: domestic abuse before and during the pandemic; accessing support from and reporting domestic abuse; accessibility of resources; and post-pandemic challenges. A phenomenological approach was used to analyse the transcribed interviews.


Participants consistently highlighted the unique threats and barriers migrant and racially minoritised women faced when seeking support. Barriers included racism, language barriers, cultural constraints, the triple threat of destitution, detention, deportation, and political resistance to protect migrant women from destitution/homelessness.


This paper provides a unique insight into the experiences of staff members within a specialist by and for women’s support organisation in England and their perspectives on the barriers racially minoritised and migrant women experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic. It offers rare insights into how service users’ needs changed during the lockdowns and how the pandemic affected their ability to operate.



The author wishes to thank the editor and the anonymous reviewers for their support and kind, constructive, comments on an earlier draft of this article. She also wishes to thank Southall Black Sisters for their time and cooperation in enabling this project.

Negina Barai, Rachel Dolby, Ellie Quick, Peyton Robinson, Alix Williams, Sam Walsh, Lisa Calder, and Dalhatu Mohammed Kolo, all volunteered to be on an elective module on the MA Applied Human Rights degree at Sheffield Hallam University where they were student researchers on this project. Dr Lourdes Peroni was part of the teaching team on this module.


Magill, S. (2022), "The “epidemic within the pandemic”: meeting the needs of racially minoritised women experiencing domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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