Women's Aid recorded a 'staggering' 43 per cent increase in domestic abuse victims reaching out last year, compared to 2019.
The charity's Annual Impact Report details the 29,717 contacts made with Women’s Aid frontline services including the 24-hour National Freephone Helpline and its Dublin-based Face-to-Face support services last year.
During these contacts, 24,893 disclosures of domestic abuse against women including coercive control were made.
Support workers also heard 5,948 disclosures of abuse against children (30,841 disclosures in total).
The report provides 'an insight into the levels and forms of abuse experienced by women and children in homes and relationships across Ireland'. The organisation says that the reality is that thousands of women are being subjected to high levels of emotional, physical, sexual and economic abuse.
The Covid-19 pandemic made the crisis level of domestic violence in Ireland more visible.
'Tip of the iceberg'
Women's Aid chief excecutive Sarah Benson said: “These statistics are shocking. The 43% increase in the numbers of women reaching out to Women’s Aid for support during the most difficult of years, is staggering. However, these figures are only the tip of the iceberg of the numbers of people who are suffering at the hands of those closest to them and who need protection and support.
“One in four women in Ireland are targeted during their lifetime by current or former partners, a shocking one in five will have been abused by the time they are just 25 years old — many for the first time as teenagers in their earliest intimate relationships.”
In 2020, there were 5,948 disclosures of abuse of children made to Women’s Aid, including children being beaten with weapons, sexual abuse, constant and degrading verbal abuse, being hurt when the abuser was trying to attack their mother and abuse or neglect during access visits.
The abuse of women and children post-separation is of particular concern for Women’s Aid and the Annual Impact Report includes a special spotlight on the family law system and 'its failure to adequately protect those at risk from domestic violence perpetrators'.
Thirty-nine per cent of people in contact with Women’s Aid last year were looking for information, advocacy and referrals for legal matters.
Ms Benson added: “The system can and should act to help break the coercive bond that is controlling women and children. As a society, we need to listen to their voices and finally put safety first in Family Law. These longer term reforms are critical. However, the is a more urgent need to strengthen an already under-resourced and over-burdened Family Law system against an expected tsunami of cases delayed due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“Family Law always appears to be the ‘poor relation’ when it comes to investment in our legal system, which is inexplicable given the enormous impact these courts have on the lives of so many. It is time for this to change because lives depend upon it.”