Domestic violence levels are one of the key concerns of moving to Level 5 restrictions
Domestic violence charity Women's Aid has said they are expecting a surge in contacts over the next six weeks, as the country moves to Level 5 restrictions.
During the first lockdown measures earlier this year, Women's Aid reported a 43% increase in calls to their helpline, and a 71% increase in visits to their website.
The organisation has urged those dealing with domestic abuse to reach out and seek support if they feel in danger over the next six weeks. Women's Aid operates a 24-hour freephone helpline, as well as online chat support and other resources.
Sarah Benson, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said: "At the moment, the 24hr National Freephone Helpline has been receiving to 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 it easier to access as it can be done in silence from laptops and mobile phones.”
Benson continued: “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."
"Alone and isolated"
During this year's lockdown measures, Women's Aid compiled a number of case studies of women experiencing domestic abuse. One woman, Agnes*, is 78 and has suffered emotional, physical and financial abuse throughout her entire married life. Her husband is now 80, but Agnes described how he continues to abuse her, as well as her son, 58, who has recently returned to the family home and is becoming increasingly aggressive.
Agnes told Women's Aid: "With the Covid-19 lockdown, the situation has become even more unbearable as I feel completely trapped, suffocated and I’m frightened of telling anyone in case matters escalate and the situation gets even worse. My two other children both live abroad and I don’t want to worry or upset them so I don’t tell them any of what is going on. But, having not seen my friends in weeks, I’m feeling very alone and isolated. My son is at home all the time now and there is literally nowhere to escape from the abuse of both my husband and my son. I feel like the only way out is to die."
Benson urged anyone experiencing domestic abuse to reach out to Women's Aid, and reassured that staff and volunteers are working to provide the same level of support to callers. "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," she said.