The threat of domestic abuse was brought into sharp focus during the pandemic, when the lockdown exacerbated abuse while also reducing victims’ chances to escape.
Now a stark report has revealed that more than half of all murders last year were domestic abuse cases.
A landmark report from An Garda Síochana sets out the scale of lethal violence against women in Ireland.
It has revealed that women are more likely to experience serious crime in their own homes, and more likely to be attacked or killed by someone they know.
An Garda Síochana said there had been a “sea change” in how society views and tolerates domestic abuse, and credited a dramatic rise in reports of sexual violence to more people having the courage to come forward and the force improving how it records such crimes.
Between 2020 and 2021, the number of sexual offences where domestic abuse was a factor increased by almost 400pc. In 2020, there were 205 such incidents compared to 817 in 2021.
Women’s Aid chief executive Sarah Benson said the report revealed that men and women experience crime differently.
“For women, clearly, the residential setting is more common. The statistics show us they are statistically more likely to know the person who is targeting them. For men, they are less likely.
“For women, the majority will be a current or former partner. For men, it will be somebody classified as being an ‘other known person’.
“The perpetrators, in the vast majority of cases, whether it is men who are being targeted, or women or children, are men.”
She said her organisation believed that engaging with men on this issue “benefits men and boys” as much as it benefits women and girls.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) welcomed the report and said that the data produced by the gardaí largely matched its experience with victims it supports.
“The garda data indicates a spouse or current/former intimate partner is the most likely person to commit a violent crime against women, at a third of perpetrators.
“This also echoes the experience of DRCC’s therapy clients, where around a fifth have experienced sexual violence from their partner or ex-partner,” Noeline Blackwell, the chief executive of the DRCC said.
The new statistics emerged as, for the first time, gardaí analysed Pulse data on abusive and violent crimes between 2019 and 2021 “in order to determine emerging trends in the area of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence”.
They found that in 2021, domestic abuse was a factor in the majority of all murders for the first time.
Domestic abuse was a factor in 52pc of murders last year. Domestic abuse is the “key driver” of violence against women, and women make up 77pc of domestic abuse victims. Women were also found to make up 80pc of sexual assault victims.
The report analysed Pulse stats for attempts and threats of murder, assaults, harassment and related offences. It found that 57pc of victims of such crimes were men, and 43pc were women.
When men were injured, the crime usually took place outside the home. But almost 60pc of women who were victims of the same crimes were targeted in their homes.
Since July 2021, Pulse has been able to record the relationship between a victim of a crime and a perpetrator. Analysis found that women were more likely to know the person who committed a crime against them.
Over 80pc of women knew their attacker, compared to over 60pc of men.
The most common type of relationship between a female victim and her attacker was a current or former partner. 90pc of coercive control victims were women, and women also accounted for more than 70pc of stalking victims.
Children were victims of over 10pc of all murders between 2019 and 2021, and 60pc of all sexual offences.
Gardaí said that the “high proportion of child victims of sexual offences is influenced by incidents reported many years after they occurred – that is, adults reporting experience of child sexual abuse.”
Gardaí receive between 120 and 150 domestic abuse reports every day, and so far this year more than 37,000 domestic abuse incidents have been reported.
Women’s rights advocates in Ireland have long been campaigning for better data on domestic abuse and sexual violence, which they say is crucial for not only understanding but also appropriately resourcing services for victims.
Colm Noonan, detective chief superintendent at the Garda National Protective Services Bureau, said that as a society, “there has been a hugely positive sea change in how we view, understand and tolerate domestic abuse in our homes and in our communities, and how absolutely unacceptable it now is”.
He urged anyone who has or may be currently suffering domestic, sexual or gender-based violence to contact any garda station or in an emergency to call 999/112.
“I can assure victims that they will be supported and every incident will be investigated,” he said.