A STUDY of domestic violence trends during the Covid-19 lockdown showed that calls to the national freephone helpline increased by over 40%.
The helpline is operated by Women’s Aid. CEO of Women’s Aid, Sarah Benson, said Covid-19 had shone “a further light on the crisis of domestic violence in homes across Ireland”.
“As we all retreated to our homes for safety, it became increasingly clear that home is not a safe place for everyone. In Ireland, our 24-hour National Freephone Helpline responded to a 43% increase in calls between the end of March and the end of June. Trapped with abusers and denied outlets that may have offered them support and respite in the face of abuse before, women came up with ingenious ways to get in touch with us. Women called from their car, from the garden shed, from the bathroom with the shower running.”
She added: “We also saw a 71% increase in visits to the Women’s Aid website for this period where information and resources are available to victims, survivors and their allies. It is also where our Instant Messaging Support Service can be accessed. We were able to extend the hours of this new service over seven days enabling those who could not speak out to reach out discreetly and in silence for support.”
She said the helpline heard from women whose partners “were using the lockdown restrictions as an excuse not to leave after they had been violent.”
She continued: “When abusers couldn’t get access to their families, they shifted to digitally abusing women through messages, phone calls and video calls. For women who had previously experienced abuse, the restrictions that the Government placed on movement prompted painful memories of being abused and controlled. Women with underlying health issues reported that their partners were not adhering to Covid-19 restrictions deliberately, and some were effectively weaponising the virus by coughing or spitting on women.”
She said the government needs to follow through on its commitments to audit and improve existing state responses to domestic and sexual violence infrastructure, including co-ordination; to fully resource specialist services; to prioritise Family Law Court reform; to commit to a victim-centred and trauma-informed reform of the Criminal Justice System’s response to domestic and sexual violence; and to legislate effectively to tackle the growing problem of online abuse.
The following services are available for anyone affected by domestic violence:
- www.stillhere.ie CUMH - 021- 4920567
- Women’s Aid - 18003419000
- OSS (One Stop Shop) Cork - 1800 497 497
- Sexual Violence Center Cork - 1800 496 496
- Mna Feasa - 021-4211575
- West Cork Women Against Violence - 1800 203 136
- Y.A.N.A. (North Cork) - 022 53915
- Men’s Aid Ireland - 01 554 3811