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'Devastating abuse' Massive increase in domestic abuse contacts during pandemic is just the 'tip of the iceberg'

"Women disclosed to us that they had been beaten, strangled, burned, raped and had their lives threatened"

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Figures on domestic abuse are shocking

Figures on domestic abuse are shocking

Figures on domestic abuse are shocking

A shocking 29,717 domestic abuse contacts made with Women’s Aid in 2020 are just the “tip of the iceberg”, the charity has warned. 

Their annual Impact Report 2020 that shows a 43pc increase in contacts last year, compared to 2019, has revealed how the Covid-19 pandemic has had an “unprecedented and exhausting impact” on victims of abuse.

Women’s Aid support workers heard over 30,000 disclosures of domestic violence including coercive control.

A total of 24,893 disclosures were of abuse against women and 5,948 disclosures were of child abuse in the context of domestic violence.

Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid, described the statistics as “shocking”.

“The 43 per cent increase in the numbers of women reaching out to Women’s Aid for support during the most difficult of years is staggering,” she said.

“However, these figures are only the tip of the iceberg of the numbers of people who are suffering at the hands of those closest to them and who need protection and support.

“One in four women in Ireland are targeted during their lifetime by current or former partners, a shocking one in five will have been abused by the time they are just 25 years old – many for the first time as teenagers in their earliest intimate relationships.”

The report also fund that ending an abusive relationship does not always mean the end of the abuse. And it claims that the Family Law System is failing to adequately protect children and their mothers when considering custody and access arrangements.

Ms Benson said that behind each statistic are women we know.

“These are women in our families, in our circle of friends, in our workplaces and at the school gates,” she said.

“Women who are trying to protect and keep safe themselves and their children in the face of unrelenting and devastating abuse. Women disclosed to us that they had been beaten, strangled, burned, raped and had their lives threatened.

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“They told us about being denied access to the family income to feed and clothe themselves and their children and being stalked and humiliated online. The impacts of abuse experienced by women are wide-ranging and can be long term.

“Women disclosed to our support workers that they had experienced: broken bones, nerve damage, constant fear and hyper-vigilance, complete isolation from family and friends, suicide ideation, job loss, poverty and homelessness. Women also disclosed that they had been beaten during their pregnancy and some had lost their baby because of the abuse.”

The organisation described it as heart-breaking to listen to women as they describe their concern for their children who have witnessed and overheard the abuse against themselves as well as incidents of direct emotional, physical and sexual abuse against their children.

In 2020, there were 5,948 disclosures of abuse of children made to Women’s Aid, including children being beaten with weapons, sexual abuse, constant and degrading verbal abuse, being hurt when the abuser was trying to attack their mother and abuse or neglect during access visits.

The abuse of women and children post-separation is of particular concern for Women’s Aid and the Annual Impact Report includes a special spotlight on the Family Law System and its failure to adequately protect those at risk from domestic violence perpetrators.

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