There has been a surge in calls to a support group for male victims of domestic violence since Covid-19 restrictions were imposed last March.
Men’s Aid Ireland said that during lockdown it received “up to a 100% increase in calls” on some days.
It pointed out that there were no refuges or safe beds in Ireland for men and their children looking to escape domestic violence.
“Since mid-March, calls to Men’s Aid helpline have jumped from an average of 12 calls a day to between 16 and 26,” said Andrea McDermott, the charity’s social care team leader.
She said that since lockdown they have received 2,018 contacts to its helpline and email support.
She said men contacting them report all types of abuse, including hitting, punching, slapping, biting and kicking “and in particular men being hit with weapons”.
She added: “Men report being hit when they are vulnerable, when they have their back turned or asleep in bed.” She said men report being abused emotionally, mentally, financially, sexually and being coercively controlled.
“During lockdown we received up to 100% increase in calls on some days,” Ms McDermott said.
“Often work or college was a small escape for some men but this was no longer available.
She said men reported being trapped and feeling unsafe and concerned for their children.
“Before lockdown they may have fled to a friend or family member’s home for a night to escape the abuse, but because of social distancing this was no longer an option.
“Men were contacting Men's Aid from their cars where they had slept, or the local park.” She said men were reporting higher incidents of alcohol abuse by their partners, which can inflame violent and abusive situations.
1 in 7 men in Ireland experience domestic abuse.— Men’s Aid Ireland (@MensAidIreland) February 19, 2020
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Ms McDermott said they were getting more calls involving “parental alienation” – where one parent tries to promote a child’s rejection of another parent.
She said that as well as the damage caused to the parent affected, the behaviour can have serious consequences on children.
“Studies have shown parental alienation directly conveys to the child negative attributions about their value and worth and creates feelings of worthlessness in the child, they feel flawed, unloved, and unwanted, only being needed to hurt the targeted parent,” she said.
“Adolescents who report feeling caught between their parents had poorer outcomes, including anxiety, depression, and deviant behaviour.”
She added: “From mid-March to mid-August 2020, 121 men reported experiencing parental alienation. For the same period last year we had approximately 70 reports.”
Men’s Aid has outreach clinics in Dublin, Monaghan, Cavan, Louth and Meath and provides counselling, court accompaniment and legal advice, but wants to extend its services to every county.
Ms McDermott said that due to the high volume of men seeking counselling they have a waiting list.
The charity receives most of its funding of €249,000 from Tusla and another €20,000 from the Department of Justice to facilitate weekly court accompaniment in Dublin.