Thousands of women subjected to domestic abuse have sought support services for the first time during Covid restrictions, new research shows.
Just under 3,500 women and 589 children called a helpline with July and August the busiest months – equating to 19 ‘new’ women and three children every day.
A new report from Safe Ireland, called Tracking the Shadow Pandemic, shows that in total at least 1,970 women and 411 children sought help every month since March.
Now Labour Senator Ivana Bacik is calling for the government to take urgent action to tackle domestic violence, in light of the sharp increase in the numbers.
She said: “As we live through the second wave of this lockdown, and continue to live under Level 5 of the roadmap of restrictions, it is obvious that the costs of the pandemic and associated policies have been greater for some than for others.
“Having to spend more time at home together with the restrictions on movement and other restrictions have clearly been particularly challenging and even dangerous for people suffering with an abusive partner or relative.”
The six-month report from Safe Ireland, which is the national hub for 39 frontline domestic violence services, says patterns of abuse have been heightened by the pandemic.
It also found that abusers had found new methods for coercive control and in some cases their attacks on partners had become more frequent and more violent.
Senator Bacik said: “This phenomenon cannot be solely attributed to lockdown. Covid-19 has exposed the frailty in state-infrastructure which aims to prevent and respond to domestic violence.
“We must see urgent action to help those whose situations have been exacerbated throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Much of the approach to tackling domestic violence during this period has been laudable, such as the Garda Operation Faoiseamh.
“Initiatives such as Safe Ireland’s partnership with AirBnB to provide free temporary accommodation to survivors of domestic abuse are also to be welcomed.
“Prior to the negotiation of the Programme for Government, organisations in the sector called for a dedicated Minister with responsibility for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.
“I supported those calls at the time, and still believe that we missed the chance during government formation talks to develop a more targeted approach to addressing domestic and gender-based violence.
“I am now calling on the Minister for Justice to take urgent targeted actions to address domestic violence, and to ensure that adequate resources are provided for the vital services offering support to women and children so severely affected.”
The report published earlier this week shows that 33,941 helpline calls were answered over the period – an average of 184 a day – compared to a 2018 average of 147 calls a day.