12% of adults have experienced abuse since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic while cyber abuse is on the rise, a new survey has found.
The survey by Safeguarding Ireland was released today as part of a public awareness campaign “to encourage all adults, particularly those who are vulnerable, to safeguard during the pandemic period”.
The RED C research found that women, especially younger women, were more likely to have experienced abuse than men.
It also found “a shift in the type of abuse people experienced", with cyber abuse becoming more common since March - when the pandemic began.
The survey asked people if they had experienced abuse - including cyber, emotional, financial, physical, psychological or sexual abuse - or neglect by another person or institution.
12% reported an experience in the past six months and 20% prior to then.
The survey found that those amongst lower social class groups, the unemployed and those that are widowed, divorced or separated were more likely to have experienced abuse.
Among those who had experienced abuse, emotional and psychological abuse were the most common forms both before and during the pandemic.
Cyber abuse was the third most common form of abuse during the pandemic compared to the fifth most common prior to March, becoming higher reported than physical or sexual abuse in the recent period.
The research also found that 25% of adults said that the Covid-19 lockdown and restrictions had made them “more vulnerable to abuse”.
Patricia Rickard-Clarke, Safeguarding Ireland Chairperson, said the research shows the alarming incidence of abuse during the pandemic.
She said: “Safeguarding Ireland’s message, particularly for vulnerable adults, is to keep your independence and keep making your own decisions as much as you can while keeping safe. Ask for help when you want it and only from trusted people.
“From services we have heard that scams and coercion online have increased during the pandemic and this RED C research confirms that.
“Furthermore, the continued high prevalence of emotional and psychological abuse during Covid-19, raises concerns for many people living in restricted domestic settings.
“The Domestic Violence Act should be extended so that it is not limited to persons who are in intimate relationship, but includes the coercive control by another regardless of the relationship.”
Ms Rickard-Clarke has called for the enactment of adult safeguarding legislation to be speed up and that strengthen the powers of the HSE National Safeguarding Office Teams was needed.
She said Ireland needs to “work towards establishing a National Safeguarding Authority to ensure strong reporting, enforcement and conviction for all forms of abuse”