The Covid-19 crisis has resulted in a surge of domestic violence helpline calls as abusers and their families find themselves locked up behind closed doors for 24 hours a day, a leading support group said.
Stop Domestic Violence in Ireland (SDVII) has reported a significant increase in calls to its helplines in recent days as the impact of unprecedented emergency measures to combat the spread of the virus is felt in many homes across the country.
SDVII founder Priscilla Grainger said she has spoken to dozens of women, and some men, who are living in a “nightmare situation” with their abusers.
Ms Grainger described the situation as “a ticking time bomb”.
“We’ve already seen some explosions, and things are likely to get a lot worse the longer this goes on,” Ms Grainger said.
She said the coronavirus pandemic has left victims who are self-isolating and working from home more at risk from their abusive partner as they are more exposed to verbal abuse and violence.
“We’ve had over 80 calls in the past week alone, and most of these have been in the past two to three days,” Ms Grainger added.
“Interim barring orders are available, but only in extreme cases. You would have to be able to demonstrate that your life is in severe danger to have a chance of getting one.”
Ms Grainger said the problem is exacerbated by a significant number of domestic abusers who are addicts, as they do not have access to bars, drugs or the betting shops.
“Who do you think they’re going to take it out on? Unfortunately, it’s usually their victims, those closest to them and – in many cases – the children who are in the firing line,” the domestic violence campaigner added.
To provide more protection throughout the Covid-19 crisis, SDVII is calling for senior gardaí in every Garda district to be given emergency powers to enact barring orders in cases where victims are living under the threat of violence.
Ms Grainger said there is a very real danger that some domestic violence victims will be killed over the coming weeks and months unless some measures are put in place to protect them.
SDVII is campaigning to have domestic violence enshrined in law as a criminal offence and provides practical and emotional support to survivors.
They have an in-house solicitor to provide expert legal advice, free counselling, food, clothes and shelter.
Ms Grainger added: “We do anything we can do to give them back the life of safety and security that they’re entitled to.”
SDVII has said its services remain available to those who need them.