A study, carried out by Royal Holloway, University of London, discovered rates of domestic abuse had increased far more starkly than findings which came from police statistics.
Researchers, who utilised a new algorithm for internet search data, honed in on 35 keywords that domestic violence victims often search on the internet, such as wording associated with refuge, support, charity, aid, legal protection, and threatening and abusive relationships.
Researchers said the disparity between the police statistics and their data could indicate victims were less likely to report to the police in the lockdown the government rolled out at the beginning of March last year.
Professor Dan Anderberg, head of the Department of Economics at Royal Holloway, said: “The results from the current study show that concerns, raised at the time, that victims of domestic abuse were less likely to report to the police during the lockdown were well-founded.
“Going forward the research also provides a tool for monitoring the level of domestic abuse incidence in real-time.”
The study suggests the London Metropolitan Police might have recorded an extra 4,700 domestic violence crimes during lockdown - in addition to the 21,500 which were recorded - if the levels of people coming forward to the police had remained the same as they were pre-lockdown.
It comes after figures released by the Office for National Statistics last month revealed calls to the UK’s national domestic abuse helpline soared by 22 per cent in the year ending March 2021.
Domestic abuse rose substantially during the pandemic as victims were cooped up indoors with abusive partners. While lockdowns do not in themselves cause domestic abuse, stay at home measures can worsen pre-existing patterns of abuse and violence.
An average of between two and three women are murdered each week by their partners or ex-partners in England and Wales, while one in four women will suffer domestic abuse at some point during their lives.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies