Domestic violence services preparing for increase in need as the country opens

The “new normal” of combined work-home could mean ongoing prisons for women and children living with abusers says Safe Ireland.  

Services say they “cannot go back” to the old way of doing things.

Safe Ireland, the national policy and services hub for 38 frontline domestic violence services, said that it was preparing for what it anticipates could be a further surge in calls and needs by women and children who have been contained with their abusers for the past nine weeks and who may now finally find the space and freedom to reach out for help.

Sharon O’Halloran, Co-CEO of Safe Ireland, said that services throughout the country were reconfiguring to ensure that they can provide the best levels of safe, professional support for women and children.  As a network of services, they have started to put in place a united recovery plan to respond to what will be a “new normal” she said.

She said that while many services within the network had seen an increase in calls and needs, others were not as busy as they might have expected, which was most concerning. Over the lock-down period, many services reported that they were seeing a higher proportion of more serious cases of physical and sexual assault within intimate partner relationships. They had also seen an increase in abuse of older women by adult male children. Many reported that they were working with more single women, with lower numbers than usual of women with children. O’Halloran said that this raised a red flag that women with children may have been tolerating abuse and coercive control through the weeks of strict containment for the sake of the children.  With more space and freedom, she said, these women would hopefully have more opportunity now to look for the safety and protection they need.

“Our services have been open and have been operating throughout this crisis,” she said. “As we begin to open up our country, they are available, now more than ever.  Many women may have been living with intolerable control and abuse over the past two months.  It is important that they know that we are here in their communities and that we can support them to be safe in their own homes, or help re-home them if this is what is needed.”

Mary McDermott, Co- CEO of Safe Ireland, said services throughout the country had become more united in their resolve that the sector “cannot go back” to the way things were operating. 

She said that Covid-19 had exposed the fragility of the sector and the deep fault lines that have existed for decades in the state’s response to domestic violence.  She pointed to the fact that services have been advocating for women fleeing from domestic violence during Covid-19 to be able to receive rent supplement, for example, which has so far been denied by the Government.

She also said that Covid 19 could mean that the ‘work-home divide’ will be reconfigured in the long-term, raising serious issues for the risk and invisibility of domestic violence.

“What we now regard as ‘the private’ may be radically changed with technology likely to reconfigure our lives utterly,” McDermott said. “We have to seriously consider if the future will make an absolute prison of these combined spaces for many women and children?  We have to be prepared to respond to this new normal. The fractured and piece-meal state response to domestic violence that we had for decades simply won’t do this.  We have to radically overhaul the infrastructure that is in place so that we can transform the way we respond to the needs of women today. ”

Safe Ireland established an Emergency Covid-19 Fund to support the emergency needs of women and children throughout the crisis, distributed through their member service. So far, the fund has directly supported 130 women and 264 children with practical but much needed emergency financing to help them find safety. The fund has provided for practical but essential items like food, heating oil, utility bills, transport costs or materials and appliances needed for new accommodation.  The fund remains open for donations and will continue to be used, now more than ever, as the country opens up.

For more information contact:

Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-2935207