Domestic violence reports up 30% in some areas since lockdown, says Garda

Women’s Aid urges people to report suspected abuse as calls to its service increase

Photograph: Frank Miller

Photograph: Frank Miller

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Much of the violence and disorder associated with excess drinking has switched to the home environment and domestic violence reports to the Garda have increased by 30 per cent in some areas.

The true spike in domestic attacks is likely much higher because many victims are now in lockdown at home in such close proximity with their abusers they have lost the opportunity to reach out for help.

Women’s Aid said it had also experienced an increase in calls to its services and urged people who suspected somebody was being beaten or abused in the home to take steps to help them, including contacting them or even calling the Garda.

Garda sources told The Irish Times that reports of domestic violence had increased by almost 25 per cent since the coronavirus lockdown period began last month, with higher spikes in some areas.

Crime trends

“What we are seeing is that some people who would have normally gone out to drink in pubs or nightclubs have switched that to the home setting and that’s a major aggravating factor,” said one senior officer.

The same source said the Garda had examined changing crime trends in other European countries where lockdown had been introduced first and domestic violence had spiked as other crime types decreased. The same pattern was now happening in the Republic, he said.

Another Garda source said an increase of close to 25 per cent in calls was “very significant” in the context of national crime data.

“Even when the drugs trade collapsed after the Celtic Tiger, the fall [in drug crime] was about 35 per cent and that took years. So an increase of 20-30 per cent in reports of any type of crime in a matter of weeks is huge for us.”

The same officer pointed out a feared increase in domestic violence had been prioritised in the Garda’s planning for coronavirus, also known as Covid-19.

“From the start [Garda] members were asked to be prudent when arresting people and not to do that if it wasn’t absolutely necessary, but not in relation to domestic violence. That was to be treated in the same way; to use arrest to take an offender out of the home.”

Women’s Aid chief executive Sarah Benson told The Irish Times calls to her agency’s helplines had also increased during the Covid-19 lockdown period, adding there were “huge levels of stress and violence” at present.

Close quarters

She said lockdown meant many women had lost the opportunity to reach out to family and friends or to report to the Garda.

“Some people are living in very close quarters; very small apartments and even in bedsits. And in those situations making a phone call without being heard may not be possible now. Other women who would have previously called to their mother’s house or a friend now don’t have that option now because of cocooning and lockdown.”

Ms Benson said Women’s Aid now had a text chat feature on its website which allowed women to send a message from their mobile phone without running the risk of being heard by their abuser.

She also encouraged people to act if they suspected domestic abuse. Rather than “assuming the victim will be in a position to seek and get help” they should call gardaí if worried about immediate safety, or reach out to the victim in a discreet way, including messaging apps.

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