Information for specialist family violence and sexual violence services

Click here to go to our other COVID-19 pages

Last updated 28 September 2023

Services have many things to think about during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have provided some key information below. We are continuing to add new research, reports, guides and policies related to COVID-19 and violence to our library. To find these resources, see our library quick topic search on COVID-19.

Use these links to jump to the information below:

Keeping your employees and the people you work with safe from COVID-19

Using technology to reduce face-to-face contact

Key messages for people experiencing or using violence

Safety considerations for victim/survivors

Adapting work with perpetrators

Advocate and worker wellbeing

Further reading


Keeping your employees and the people you work with safe from COVID-19

The Ministry for Social Development (MSD) has a webpage that has guidance and information for all social services (see their previous guidance including information for each alert level) related to COVID-19. MSD provides a regular email update with new announcements for providers related to COVID-19. To subscribe to this newsletter email

MSD has worked with the Ministry of Health to provide information on PPE guidance for essential social services. This page also has information and resources to help your organisation with contact tracing. 

The Ministry of Health has advice on the use of face masks as part of the response to COVID-19. See their page on COVID-19: Use of masks in the community for more information. The official government website has information for the general public on masks including what type of mask to use, when to wear masks and how to wear a face mask.

See the Oranga Tamariki website for updates and changes to their services. The Oranga Tamariki Practice Centre website has more detailed information about how their work has changed in response to COVID-19 and resources for providers.

MSD has previously published Guidelines for the Family Violence and Sexual Violence workforce for COVID-19 Alert Level 4 and Level 3. The guidance is for the family violence and sexual violence crisis workers who provide support to victims/survivors during COVID-19. It covers how providers should operate during Alert Levels 3 and 4 while meeting health and safety expectations to keep staff and victims/survivors safe. 

If you are a service provider and have specific questions, contact your MSD contract or relationship manager first. You can also email MSD at


Using technology safely to reduce face-to-face contact

TOAH-NNEST have produced remote therapy guidelines for practitioners offering therapeutic counselling to victim/survivors of sexual and domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidelines highlight the importance of keeping yourself safe, ensuring ethical practice and the maintenance of boundaries, and suggestions for platforms to use.

TOAH-NNEST has posted video recordings from two webinars related to using technology:

When using devices for service delivery use these tips for safety and privacy:

  • Use agency-owned devices and agency accounts, not personal ones
  • Facebook Messenger, Facetime and similar apps are not recommended for privacy reasons
  • Be cautious with apps. Only download those necessary for work. Limit apps’ access to device data to avoid clients’ information being accessible.
  • Only download apps from official stores (Google Play & Apple App Store)
  • Regularly update software and apps to prevent security issues
  • Limit automatic connections such as Wifi & Bluetooth
  • Avoid public Wifi connections if you can, especially when uploading files and using sensitive information

For more detailed information see TOAH-NNEST's Tech tips for frontline services (2020).

Talking Trouble has produced resources for professionals and participants on effective communication in virtual or phone meetings and legal hearings. Talking Trouble provides services to meet  the speech, language and communication needs of children, youth and adults involved with justice, care and protection, mental health and behaviour services. See their other resources related to COVID-19.

These US resources provide more advice about using technology from the National Network to End Domestic Violence including the following topics:

  • Video Conferencing & Digital Communication Platforms: Comparison Chart
  • Using Technology to Communicate with Survivors During a Public Health Crisis
  • How to Operate as a Remote Workplace During a Public Health Crisis

It is important to review rapid changes made to services including changes that rely on technology. These changes may have created new ways of working, but they may also have introduced new barriers or risks to safety for victims/survivors. The US-based National Network to End Domestic Violence encourages re-assessing these decisions to adopt new technology. They have created a Digital Services Toolkit which has a number of resources that can help. 

Key questions to ask are whether the changes still fit and if the changes effectively address safety for victims. These articles from Australia address how to document the changes and how to assess rapid service changes


Key safety messages for people experiencing or using violence

It's important that people know family and sexual violence services are always available and how to get help.

If you use social media or have a website, tell people you are still able to help and how to contact you.

You can also share information about helplines.

Remind victim/survivors to look for this icon at the bottom of websites. The icon opens the website. When you open the website by clicking on the icon, it won't appear in internet browser history. It has information on getting help.

The Joint Venture Work Programme update for September 2021 included safety messages for wide distribution and identified five top line messages:

  • Crisis services are open
  • You can leave your bubble [or isolation] if you’re not safe
  • Family violence and sexual violence support lines are open for people to call, email or text
  • If someone is in danger call Police on 111
  • When dialling 111 follow the operator’s instructions if you can’t speak.

It's important to think about specific communities and groups that may be more affected by the pandemic and restrictions. For more information see How to include marginalized and vulnerable people in risk communication and community engagement (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2020). This brief explains why some groups are at particular risk in public health emergencies. It also sets out specific actions to support effective communication and engagement with groups at greater risk.


Safety considerations for victim/survivors

A perpetrator's violence can change and become worse during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic. The Backbone Collective surveyed 35 women victim-survivors about their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic in Aotearoa New Zealand. The women described how former partners used the pandemic as a new tool/weapon of abuse, highlighting that:

"These abusers used the isolation, fear, risk of illness and lack of clarity and inconsistency of information, to control, isolate and abuse their ex/partners and children. The types of abuse described by participants included psychological, physical, litigation and financial. Abusers frequently forced contact with the adult victim-survivor and children using in most cases online platforms and/or court ordered contact with children to do so."

Read the full report summarising findings from the survey Shining Light on the Shadow: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on abuser behaviour (2022).

These international resources talk about how violence can change and how specialist providers can respond. 

International researchers have also begun to report the experiences of victims with changes to their safety and changes in accessing services:

Isolation, social marginalisation and restrictions from the COVID-19 response can increase the risk of sexual violence and impact access to services and support for victims/survivors. This infographic from the Canadian Learning Network at the Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children highlights the ways that COVID-19 may impact sexual violence. In addition victims/survivors of sexual violence may experience trauma in relation to the public health measures to control COVID-19. This article from Australian media ABC Radio highlights how wearing face masks to control COVID-19 can trigger trauma for sexual violence victims/survivors. 

Te Ngākau Kahukura has information for people who are working with, supporting or living with rainbow young people. There are some specific ways that rainbow rangatahi might be affected by the pandemic. Community-led support services and resources are available to help.

Ara Taiohi published a series of articles exploring ethics and COVID-19 tensions in youth work in Kaiparahuarahi (No. 3), the Journal for Youth Work in Aotearoa.


Adapting work with perpetrators

Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga - National Network of Family Violence Services is developing practice-based information. They are happy to share this with other family and sexual violence services – email

The European Network for the Work with Perpetrators of Domestic Violence has developed a COVID-19 Revision of Practice Toolkit (2021) which invites providers to reflect on changes to their practice and consider positive and negative impacts, including how changes might affect risks. The Network has published other resources related to COVID including a webinar, guidelines to ensure responsible perpetrator work during COVID-19 and links to other resources.

For more information see these additional international resources:


Advocate and worker wellbeing

Advocates may experience increased personal, community and professional responsibilities and pressures from the impacts of COVID-19. We have put together information and resources to support advocate and worker wellbeing during the pandemic. 

An important place to start is the Best Practice Guidelines: Supporting the Wellbeing of Family Violence Workers During Times of Emergency and Crisis (May 2021) based on research with service provider experiences from the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre in partnership with Domestic Violence Victoria and the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria.


Further reading

Researchers in Australia, the US and the UK have begun to document the impacts to family violence and sexual violence organisations and their staff. The following reports and articles make recommendations to support and retain staff in the context of COVID-19 and future emergencies:

The VAWG Helpdesk Research Report Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Violence against Women and Girls (UK Aid, 16 March 2020) discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic might impact on violence against women and girls (VAWG). It draws on emerging global evidence from the current COVID-19 outbreak, and previous epidemics.

The US-based National Violence Sexual Resource Centre has compiled resources related to sexual violence and disasters. This includes resources for service providers that covers a wide range of topics.

Also see our FAQ part 1: Understanding the impacts of COVID-19 and FAQ part 2: Addressing the impacts of COVID-19.


Click here to go to our other COVID-19 pages

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