Women’s Aid helpline sees calls increase almost 40% during lockdown

‘We have been answering calls from women trapped at home with very dangerous abusers’

The Women’s Aid national freephone line has answered over 4,000 calls since March this year

The Women’s Aid national freephone line has answered over 4,000 calls since March this year

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Women reported being strangled, raped and beaten to a national domestic violence helpline, where calls have increased by almost 40 per cent compared with a year ago.

The Women’s Aid national freephone line has answered over 4,000 calls since March – a 39 per cent increase on the same period last year. Its website has had over 72,000 visits – a 74 per cent increase on the same time in 2019.

“Since late March we have been answering calls from women who are trapped at home with very dangerous abusers,” said Sarah Benson, chief executive of Women’s Aid.

“We have spoken to women who have been attacked with weapons and fists, who are being verbally abused, controlled and monitored at all times. Women with underlying health issues have reported that their partners are deliberately not adhering to Covid-19 restrictions.”

The mental health impact of domestic abuse is heightened due to restrictions, with some women expressing suicidal ideation.

In one case a woman in her 70s, named in the charity’s statement as “Agnes”, called and reported she had suffered abuse all her married life.

“Though her husband is now 80, she continues to endure his abuse and remains terrified of him. To make matters worse, her son, aged in his 50s, recently returned to the family home and he has become increasingly more abusive in his behaviour towards her too.

“Agnes told us: ‘He refuses to contribute financially and demands that I wait on him hand and foot. Whenever I’ve asked him to help, he has got angry and aggressive with me, shouting things like ‘You owe me, you old b***h’ and ‘You’ve never done anything for me, so why should I do anything for you?’”

The Covid-19 lockdown had made her situation “even more unbearable” says Women’s Aid. She felt trapped and feared the consequences of telling anyone outside the family home.

Women’s Aid is concerned at the absence of a detailed plan in the framework document for Government negotiations, as to how domestic violence will be tackled by the next administration.

It is calling for urgent increases in funding for specialist services, reform of the criminal and family law systems and robust measures to tackle online abuse and harassment, including image-based abuse.

Call the Women’s Aid 24 hour national freephone helpline on 1800 341 900.

Details of other specialist domestic and sexual abuse support services, including services for male victims, are available at stillhere.ie.