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Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on Victim Service Provision: Challenges, Innovations, and Lessons Learned

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2023
97 pages

This publication studies the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on victim service provision (VSP) for victims of gender-based violence (GBV).


This study explores the impact of COVID-19 on service provision for victims of gender-based violence (GBV). Research has associated the impacts of COVID-19 with an increased rate of GBV, including sexual assault/abuse, intimate partner violence (IPV), and sex trafficking. The COVID-19 pandemic may have amplified these impacts for victims. Many of the factors that place individuals at increased risk for or exacerbate the impacts of GBV have also been documented as impacts of the pandemic, including housing instability, job loss or changes in job security, economic strain, new childcare responsibilities, lack of social support, and increased substance use, among others. For survivors of GBV navigating these amplified impacts, the presence of and services available through community-based victim service providers (VSPs) were and continue to be essential. The pandemic altered normal social functioning in ways that significantly disrupted VSPs and the systems with which they interact and on which they rely. VSPs faced the competing needs of higher demand for services and a heightened call to follow public health guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Physical distancing, limitations on the number of people allowed in an enclosed space, and closures to infrastructure critical to service delivery in some areas impacted providers’ ability to meet victims’ needs. Although these efforts are effective in preventing the transmission of COVID-19, they create unique challenges for those supporting individuals experiencing or recovering from victimization. The resulting adaptations that VSPs made were immediate and necessary but also inspired innovation and modernization in service delivery, some of which was long-lasting and even overdue. This unique combination of circumstances presents a critical opportunity to understand the impacts of such service modernization on victims and VSPs, as well as the value of established practice models. 

Date Published: December 1, 2023