London, June 29 (SocialNews.XYZ) Google searches are an effective tool for tracking and predicting domestic violence, especially in times of crisis, such as the post-Covid-19 outbreak, research suggests.
When the Covid pandemic hit and countries went into strict lockdown, news reports began reporting anecdotal evidence of women being forced to live under the same roof with abusive partners.
A team of Italian researchers, including from Bocconi University in Milan, analyzed the relationships between Google searches for nine keywords related to domestic violence on the one hand, and calls to the Italian helpline on domestic violence 1522 and the emergency number 112 in Lombardy.
The keywords selected were: 1522, abuse, home & abuse, home & rape, feminicide, rape, domestic violence, gender-based violence, and sexual violence.
The idea behind the study is that the Internet – and Google in particular – can provide a way to anonymously raise concerns about abusive partners and collect relevant information, the team wrote in the article. published in the European Journal of Population.
Calls to the helpline measure the potential risk of experiencing domestic violence, while calls to the hotline measure actual violence.
The frequency of queries for keywords was consistently positively and significantly correlated with helpline calls over the entire study period (2013-2020), with a lag between searching and calling. about a week.
But their predictive power increased after the Covid-19 outbreak, when traditional support mechanisms became harder to reach.
The team also observed a worrying socio-economic divide.
“Predictions have proven to be more reliable among high socioeconomic status populations because they are better than other socioeconomic strata at effectively googling in this context,” said Selin Koksal, a public policy doctoral student at Bocconi.
“People of lower socioeconomic status may be using less targeted dialect or keywords, which could prevent them from accessing specific online resources to seek help,” Koksal added.
The study advises policy makers to monitor research related to domestic violence and scale up their support activities accordingly, both by strengthening services where and when research becomes more frequent and by raising awareness through the media .
“They could also intervene on behalf of disadvantaged people,” Koksal said, “by promoting internet literacy and, in the short term, convincing Google to show domestic violence support services among the top results, like he did it in the United States”.