The number of calls for help relating to domestic violence increased 25 per cent this year while more than 100 people were charged in the last two weeks of May as part of a new Garda crackdown on violence in the home.
An Garda Síochána said on Tuesday that 107 people were charged between May 13th and May 27th with domestic violence offences as part of the second phase of Operation Faoiseamh.
A total of 8,229 contacts or attempts to contact victims of domestic violence have been made during the first five months of this year.
The Garda said also it has recorded a 25 per cent year on year increase in calls for assistance around domestic issues.
The aim of Operation Faoiseamh is to “prevent loss of life and to ensure victims of domestic abuse were supported and protected during this extraordinary time,” the Garda said in a statement.
It said all instances of domestic abuse, including coercive control, would continue to received “the highest priority response”.
It encouraged members of the public to report all incidents of domestic abuse, adding that “no one need suffer any abuse in a home setting”.
Some 245 members of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau (GNPSB) and 16 members of the Divisional Protective Service Units have been allocated to investigate sexual and domestic crimes.
Detective Chief Supt Declan Daly said the latest prosecutions as part of Operation Faoiseamh should “serve as a reminder to all that breaching domestic abuse court orders is an offence and can result in court proceedings”.
Sarah Benson, head of Women’s Aid, welcomed the Garda’s priority for domestic abuse victims during the pandemic but cautioned that the latest statistics were “only the tip of the iceberg”.
She said Women’s Aid has witnessed a 39 per cent increase in calls since late March, with women disclosing high levels of emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse from their partners. Traffic on the charity’s website has also spiked, rising by 74 per cent in recent months.
“We have spoken to women who have been attached with weapons and fists, who are being verbally abused, controlled and monitored at all times,” said Ms Benson. “Women with underlying health issues have reported their partners are not adhering to Covid-19 restrictions deliberately.”
The State must treat domestic abuse as a “priority issue” as part of its post Covid-19 planning and increase supports and protections to ensure the safety and well-being of victims, she added.
The Safe Ireland network for women and children warned that domestic violence remained “one of the most unreported, undocumented and unprosecuted crimes on our statute books”.
Calls to the network’s helpline increased by 60 per cent during the pandemic , with women and children now emerging with the “double trauma of lockdown and months of abuse and control with their aggressors,” said Mary McDermott from Safe Ireland.
“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.”
Ms McDermott called on the next Government to ensure domestic violence does not return to being a “hidden issue that can be pawned off with piecemeal and inadequate responses”.
Any person suffering domestic abuse or aware of an abuse situation should contact An Garda Síochána. Anyone who feels in immediate danger should call 999 or 112.
They can also reach support by calling Women’s Aid’s 24hr national freephone helpline on 1800 341 900.