Disclosing domestic violence and abuse to the police: A conversation analytic study of 999 & 101 calls

Emma Richardson, Elizabeth Stokoe, Marc Alexander, Magnus Hamann, Elizabeth Manrique-Cordeje, Eva Maria Martika

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished Conference Paper


In 2019, the Office for National Statistics (ONS, 2020) estimated that one in three women aged 16-59 in the UK will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. Two women per week are being killed by their current or previous partner in England and Wales alone and, in the year between March 2019-20, 1.6 million women experienced domestic abuse. Despite the high prevalence, and the very serious impacts, rates of help-seeking within Europe are generally low (Lelaurain, Graziani, and Lo Monaco, 2017).

During the COVID-19 global pandemic, the UK and international governments, media, charities, and helplines reported a serious increase in reports of domestic abuse (Bradbury-Jones and Isham, 2020) which was not equally observed by the police. We know from existing literature, there are a multitude of barriers faced by victims in reporting these incidents to the police (Taylor and Gassner, 2010, p. 241).

To understand the gap in reporting to the police and the third sector, and to identify any barriers in the language used, we collected ~200 digitally recorded reports of domestic abuse made to an English police service prior to and during the pandemic. Using conversation analysis we examined how callers request help and how call handler’s subsequent responses impact on the progression of the calls. Our findings locate effective call handler practices and highlight potential barriers to disclosing DV to the police. The research furthers our academic understanding of domestic abuse and how callers make requests for help in high-stakes service encounters.

Bradbury-Jones, C., & Isham, L. (2020). The pandemic paradox: The consequences of COVID-19 on domestic violence. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 29(13-14), 2047-2049. doi:10.1111/jocn.15296

Lelaurain, S., Graziani, P., & Lo Monaco, G. (2017). Intimate partner violence and help-seeking: A systematic review and social psychological tracks for future research. European Psychologist, 22(4), 263-281. doi:10.1027/1016-9040/a000304

Office for National Statistics (ONS), (2020, November 25). Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview: November 2020.

Taylor, S. C., & Gassner, L. (2010). Stemming the flow: challenges for policing adult sexual assault with regard to attrition rates and under‐reporting of sexual offences. Police Practice and Research, 11(3), 240-255. doi:10.1080/15614260902830153

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 13 Sept 2021
Event15th Biennial Conference of the International Association of Forensic Linguists -
Duration: 13 Sept 2021 → …


Conference15th Biennial Conference of the International Association of Forensic Linguists
Period13/09/21 → …


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