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Increased risk of domestic violence over Christmas

Press release issued: 10 December 2020

Domestic violence and health experts from the University of Bristol are urging men in Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Somerset, Wiltshire and Gwent (South Wales) to get in touch if they are worried about being abusive or controlling in their relationships with women.

In April this year, Women’s Aid conducted a survey to assess the impact that the measures introduced to combat the spread of COVID-19 have had on those experiencing domestic abuse: 67.4% of those who completed the survey reported that their abuse had worsened during the COVID-19 period and over three quarters of the survivors also reported that due to COVID-19 they had been forced to spend more time with their abuser.

The Christmas holidays, combined with further COVID restrictions across the UK, mean that for some families the holidays may be a very difficult time.

As part of a study, the REPROVIDE team at the University of Bristol is running a group programme for men who have concerns about their behaviour towards their partners and want support to stop being abusive. The study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and is one of the NIHR’s national priority studies during the pandemic.

The study is being conducted with charitable partners Barnardo’s, Splitz Support Service, NextLink, Phoenix Domestic Abuse Services and Respect.

Dr Jo Roberts, Senior Research Associate from REPROVIDE, said: “The REPROVIDE group programme doesn’t just deal with physical violence it also addresses threatening behaviour, name-calling, humiliation, jealousy and control. Men meet together in facilitated group sessions to discuss a wide range of issues, including how to resolve conflict, what healthy relationships look like, different beliefs and expectations about what men and women are like, personal values and hopes for the future.

“The overall aim of the programme is to improve safety for men’s partners, ex-partners and children. An important part of the group sessions is to discuss how abuse might be affecting not only partners but also children, as this is often a reason men want to change their behaviour."

Dr Nathan Eisenstadt, Senior Research Associate from REPROVIDE, said: “During lockdown and over the Christmas period it can feel as if there is nowhere to turn to. We are offering a free six-month programme that supports men to make changes to their behaviour. Organisations working with men can refer to us and men themselves can refer themselves to this programme directly.

“Domestic abuse can affect families of all kinds, and we know that problems can escalate during lockdowns when people are spending more time together and in very challenging circumstances, so we want professionals or men themselves to know that we are still taking referrals and to please get in touch with us during this time.”

Men who are aged 21 or over, live in Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Somerset, Wiltshire or Gwent (South Wales), who are worried about their behaviour in relationships with women, are invited to take part in the study.

One group participant who has almost completed the programme has spoken about how he feels it has helped his relationship: “My partner’s told me I have changed for the better. She can see improvements … I’m not so aggressive, not so angry … group has helped me a lot. It’s opened my eyes to a lot of things that I was doing. It’s helped me turn into a better person.”

Men’s partners and ex-partners are also invited to join the study, and if their partners are on the groups they receive support from specialist domestic abuse providers. One partner commented: “I think the programme is brilliant. It’s really changed my life, in a good way. Without it, I didn’t really see much hope. And to be honest, this programme has really helped sculpt our relationship ... It’s saved our relationship, which is amazing. I’ve got nothing bad to say about it, it’s been amazing.”

If you would like further information about joining the study and the REPROVIDE programme or would like to refer someone to the study, call 07976 225462 or 07870 376548, email or visit

For help and support on domestic violence, these services provide free helplines:

  • National Domestic Violence 24 hr Helpline for women experiencing abuse (England): 0808 2000 247
  • Live Fear Free 24 hr Helpline for anyone experiencing domestic abuse (Wales): 0808 80 10 800
  • Men’s Advice Line for men experiencing abuse: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm: 0808 801 0327
  • National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 999 5428
  • RESPECT Phoneline: Confidential helpline offering advice, information and support to anyone concerned about their own or someone else’s violent or abusive behaviour. Monday-Friday 9am-5pm: 0808 802 4040

Further information

About the Centre for Academic Primary Care
The Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC) at the University of Bristol is a leading centre for primary care research in the UK, one of nine forming the NIHR School for Primary Care Research. It sits within Bristol Medical School, an internationally recognised centre of excellence for population health research and teaching. Follow us on Twitter: @capcbristol.

About the National Institute for Health Research
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR:

  • funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
  • engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
  • attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
  • invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
  • partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy.

The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR supports applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries, using UK aid from the UK government.

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