Thursday 22nd October 2020 (embargoed 06:00): Today, Women’s Aid urges community vigilance, and encourages women to reach out and seek support as the country lockdowns with new Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions. The organisation, which operates the 24hr National Freephone Helpline, an online chat support and Dublin based One to One and Court Support services, expects an increase in contacts over the next 6 weeks. The Covid-19 national emergency continues to shine a light on the crisis of domestic violence in homes across Ireland. There is a greater awareness that home is not always a safe place for everyone. During the height of the previous lockdown, Women’s Aid responded to a 43% increase in calls from women who were trapped with abusers at home, many of whom had to come 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. The organisation will remain available 24/7 for callers experiencing abuse by offering a listening ear, practical information and support as well as being a gateway to local refuges and support services across the country.
Sarah Benson, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, says:
“In his address to the nation on Monday night, Taoiseach Michéal Martin acknowledged increased levels of domestic violence as a real impact of the new restrictions. We echo that concern. At the moment, the 24hr National Freephone Helpline has been receiving roughly 1,000 more calls a month than normal. We expect that number to increase even further now that Level 5 restrictions come into force. Callers are reporting increased anxiety about abusive partners continuing to work from home and having more opportunity to abuse and control. We are getting more calls from women with suicidal ideation than we normally would and there more calls at night, when the abusive partner is asleep. We are also seeing lots of messages to the online chat service which some women find easier to access as it can be done in silence from laptops and mobile phones.”
Ms Benson continues:
“Job losses, remote working, self-isolation and other measures are already impacting on victims. The reality that the abuser is 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 renewed measures to combat Covid-19. Over the last eight months, women told us that their partners were using the lockdown restrictions as an excuse not to leave after they had been violent. When abusers couldn’t get access to their current or former partners, their abuse persisted through text messages, phone calls and video calls and also through online means. For women who had previously experienced abuse, the restrictions that the Government placed on movement brought a resurgence of traumatic 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.”
Ms Benson concludes:
“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. Our outreach and court support workers will strive to ensure we can continue to respond to women’s needs. We have also been in touch with An Garda Síochána in the last number of days and are reassured that domestic violence remains a high priority, that Operation Faoiseamh is ongoing and that the 5k limit for travel does not apply if someone is fleeing abuse to a safe location. It is critical that the whole community must be vigilant and responsive to anyone whom they feel may be in an abusive, dangerous situation. People can seek their own support and information through our website, Helpline or other resources if they need, in order to help to others.”
Women who wish to seek legal protection under the Domestic Violence Act should contact their local family/district court for updates, as we understand provisions will remain to make applications for protection as a priority.
Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 www.womensaid.ie.
Support for male victims, the National Male Adviceline 1800 816 588. Details of all services available across the country can be accessed via www.stillhere.ie.
For more information: Call Christina Sherlock on 0879192457 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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