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‘Shocking’ rise in domestic abuse in second lockdown last year

NEW figures reveal that three Clare children were forced to spend Christmas Day in a refuge because of domestic abuse in their home. The data, which highlights the added pressure on the refuge operated by Clare Haven during the second lockdown last year, have been described by the service manager as “shocking”.

Figures contained in the national report ‘Tracking the Shadow Pandemic – Lockdown 2,’ show that ten women and 17 children were given refuge, safety and security at Clare Haven in the month of November. A further 72 helpline calls were received to the service in that month alone, where we gave emotional support and information to women living with domestic abuse. A total of four women and 13 children were given refuge in December.

Over the course of 2020, 88 women were in refuge in Clare up from the 79 in 2019 and 81 in 2018.

“Even in an extraordinary time of crisis, these numbers are shocking,” said Dr Siobhán O’Connor, Manager of Clare Haven Services. “At a time when families and communities needed to and were being encouraged to come together domestic abuse perpetrators were using the crisis as an opportunity. Adequate resources and creative solutions are needed to respond to the needs of women, but also the needs of the frontline emergency professionals like those working Clare Haven Service.

“Since last March, we have been working under enormous pressure to respond to those fleeing domestic abuse. This work cannot stop. It can take no breaks. Our message to women and children being subjected to domestic abuse remains clear and steadfast. You do not have to live in an oppressive home. You do not have to endure abuse and control. There is professional support available right here in your community.”

Across the country, at least 2,018 women and 550 children received support from a domestic violence service each month from September to December 2020, according to the second major report on the prevalence of domestic violence during the pandemic. The study was launched this week by Safe Ireland, the national agency working with 39 frontline domestic violence member services, including Clare Haven Services.

Nationally, the report shows that over 2,445 new women and 486 children contacted a domestic violence service for the very first time in these four months. This equates to 611 new women and 122 new children every month, or 20 new women and four children every day, who had, as far as is known, never contacted a service before.

The incidents for the latter part of 2020 were higher generally than those reported over the first six months of the pandemic. The first Safe Ireland ‘Tracking the Shadow Pandemic’ report, which covered the six month period between March and August 2020, showed that at least 1,970 women and 411 children received support each month.

On average 167 women and 265 children stayed in a range of domestic violence accommodation (range of refuge, safe homes and supported housing) each month between September and December. This is slightly down on those in accommodation over the first six months. In total, 808 requests for refuge could not be met in the four months because there was no space. In October, however, 306 requests for refuge could not be met, the highest for the tracked months of 2020.

Clare Haven’s helpline can be reached at 065-6822435.

About Fiona McGarry

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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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