Media Release: Home Not Always the Safest Place during the Covid-19 Crisis, Women’s Aid

18 Mar 2020

  • Women’s Aid is deeply concerned about the impact of the Covid-19 emergency on the safety of women and children affected by domestic abuse.
  • ‘Perfect storm’ of circumstances is increasing the danger facing women being abused by their partners.
  • Women self-isolating and working from home more at risk from an abusive partner including being more exposed to their controlling behaviour, verbal abuse and violence.
  • Expected increased in the number of incidents of domestic abuse and the severity of violence as a result of the current crisis.
  • Despite Covid-19 restrictions, Women’s Aid is maintaining its 24hr National Helpline and other support services for women experiencing abuse.

Wednesday 18th March 2020: Women's Aid, a national frontline organisation supporting victims of domestic violence, is calling for the safety of women and children affected by abuse to be a priority during the current Coronavirus pandemic.  The organisation is deeply concerned about the impact of the crisis on the safety of women and children affected by domestic abuse.  It believes that women self-isolating and working from home are more at risk from their abusive partners and are more exposed to their controlling behaviour, verbal abuse and violence.  There are worrying reports from China and Italy that indicate an increase in domestic violence incidents during the Covid-19 crisis.  Women’s Aid calls on the Government to make sure women experiencing domestic abuse are not abandoned and ignored during this period. 

Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid says:

“It’s true that for many of us home is a place of safety in a time uncertainty. But for thousands of women and children across Ireland, home is a place of violence and fear.  It is important to remember that workplaces and schools often offer sanctuary for victims of domestic violence.  Job losses, remote working, self-isolation and other measures are already impacting on victims.  The reality that the abuser may also be at home more, or all the time, is a very frightening one.  Many women and children will spend the next few weeks in suffocating circumstances with their abusers because of the measures to combat Covid-19.  There are women trapped inside with their abuser who are using this opportunity to further his control.”

Ms Benson continues:

“Our National Helpline is hearing from women already at a heightened state of alert, trauma and anxiety because of the emergency.  There is a ‘perfect storm’ of circumstances which could see an increase in the number and the severity of incidents of domestic abuse. The current crisis will also bring increased financial hardship for families in these circumstances and is also reducing options for victims to be able to leave dangerous situations."

Due to Covid-19 restrictions Women’s Aid has taken action to protect the health and safety of its staff, volunteers and women accessing its domestic violence services.  Despite the uncertainty, Women’s Aid reassures women that its services remain available for those who need them. 

Ms Benson outlines:

“Women’s Aid is committed to listening, believing and support women experiencing domestic abuse, especially at this time of increased need.   The staff and volunteer of the 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 are working to provide the same level of support to callers and our face to face and court support workers have moved to providing specialist support by phone.” 

Women’s Aid has also been in contact with the Courts, Safe Ireland, local domestic violence support services, refuges and An Garda Síochána and acknowledge the collective efforts being made to ensure women who need support and legal protection receive it as far as possible, in these exceptional circumstances.

Ms Benson concludes:

“Safety in this time of crisis is paramount and we encourage women to reach out and find support.  It is the duty of An Garda Síochána to investigate all incidents of domestic abuse and provide the appropriate information, support and protection to those affected according to their needs. Women who feel in immediate danger should call 112/999.  At this time of national emergency we have a collective responsibility to look out for and help, in a safe way, women and children left vulnerable to abuse.”

Women’s Aid also has useful information on our website www.womensaid.ie about safety planning and guidance for family and friends when supporting a loved one affected by abuse.  The Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline is available on 1800 341 900.

Women's Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 www.womensaid.ie.

Ends. 

For more information call Christina Sherlock on 0879192457 or email christina.sherlock@womensaid.ie.

Notes for Editors/Producers:

  • Report from Italy:
  • The Domestic Violence Services Network published a letter addressed to the Minister for Equal Opportunities , in which it asks (summary, not full translation): 
      • the department to include information on the domestic violence services and the national HL on the department Coronavirus FAQ  webpage, informing women that the centres are operating, and not closed.
      • provision of masks for refuges. They have not been given any so far, so had to ask the UNHCR for help with masks.
      • financial support to get isolation flats for new women coming into a refuge or women found to have been infected, who need to quarantine.
      • specific measures for NGOS in the national coronavirus response.
  •  Full text: https://www.direcontrolaviolenza.it/covid-19-d-i-re-scrive-alla-ministra-bonetti-occorre-una-sinergia-nazionale/
  • In a 2014 study entitled 'Violence against women: An EU-wide survey' by the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), it was reported that 14% of women in Ireland have experienced physical violence by a partner since age 15. 6% of Irish women have experienced sexual violence by a current or former partner and 31% of women have experienced psychological violence by a partner. 12% of Irish respondents in the FRA study had experienced stalking (including cyber stalking).
  • Recent figures from An Garda Síochána suggests that they receive between 500 – 600 domestic violence calls a week.  That is 30,000 calls a year.  https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/domestic-homicides-far-outstrip-gangland-murder-says-commissioner-1.4107348
  • The Women's Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline answered 15,835 calls in 2018. There were 721 one to one support visits and 257 court accompaniments carried out by its One to One Support Services. An additional 591 drop-in sessions took place at the Dolphin House Support and Referral Service.  There were also 1,685 additional support calls by our One to One Services, including at Dolphin House.
  • There were 16,994 disclosures of domestic abuse to Women’s Aid Direct Services in 2018 including 11,112 disclosures of emotional abuse, 3,816 disclosures of physical abuse, 526 disclosures of sexual abuse (Including 226 disclosures of rape) and 1,540 disclosures of financial abuse. In the same year, the organisation heard 3,728 disclosures of child abuse in the context of domestic violence.