Women’s Aid is preparing for a further surge in contacts from women being abused by their partners after Level Five restrictions came into force this week.

The charity is calling for community vigilance, and encourages women to reach out and seek support if they are experiencing domestic abuse. Information on support services in Donegal is available here: https://www.womensaid.ie/services/local/donegal/

Women’s Aid expects an increase in contacts over the next 6 weeks as increased levels of domestic violence was shown to be a real impact of restrictions.

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 are 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. 

“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 added: “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.”

Gardaí are also reassuring victims 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,” Ms Benson said.

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.