Domestic violence services also seeing rise in women and children looking for support as restrictions are lifted.
Safe Ireland, the national hub for 39 domestic violence services across the country, praised An Garda Síochána’s Operation Faoiseamh, which prioritised support for survivors of domestic violence during the Covid-19 pandemic. It welcomed the forces’ stated commitment that it will continue to allocate adequate resources towards crimes against the vulnerable.
However, it also said that it was concerned that things could revert to the way they were prior to the lock-down, which meant that domestic violence was one of the most unreported, undocumented and unprosecuted crimes on our statute books.
Speaking ahead of a twice weekly zoom call with all members this morning, Mary McDermott, Co-CEO of Safe Ireland, said that services throughout the country had also seen a noticeable increase in calls and demands for support and safety, particularly over the past month. Some services are reporting an increase in helpline calls particularly of up to 60%.
She said that women and children were emerging from the pandemic with the double trauma of lock-down and months of abuse and control with their aggressors. Services, she said, were now facing the real crisis of need that Covid-19 has left in its wake.
“We have welcomed Operation Faoiseamh and the Garda prioritisation of this issue from its start back in early April,” she said. “There have been some patches of poor practice, however, for the most part, our services have worked extremely well with their local Gardaí and have praised their prioritisation of this issue.”
“But, it is now that our services are going to be facing their real crisis. Women with children in particular are coming forward and reaching out after months of entrapment with their abusers. Our services are going to be dealing with layers of complex trauma, emotional and practical needs. It is crucial that the prioritisation of this issue in Garda support and in resourcing continues.”
She also said that it was important that there was a national all of state response to an enormous national problem. She said that as the country starts to open up with reconfigured physical spaces and procedures to deal with Covid-19, there was no government agency providing the adequate resources and technical support needed by domestic violence services to help re-configure the vital spaces needed by women and children as they look for face-to-face support and accommodation.
“Our biggest concern is that once the pandemic focus lifts, domestic violence will go back to being a hidden issue that can be pawned off with piecemeal and inadequate responses. Domestic violence is an epidemic every day of the year, not just during a pandemic. We cannot go back.