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'The tip of the iceberg': Over 5,200 extra calls to Women's Aid helpline this year

Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid, said she is “very concerned” about the impact of another lockdown in January.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Antonio Guillem

CALLS TO WOMEN’S Aid, a national support service for women affected by domestic abuse, are up by 41% since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

From 23 March to the end of November, the organisation’s 24-hour free helpline responded to over 5,000 more calls than during the same period last year.

Women’s Aid responded to 17,729 calls in 2020, compared to 12,506 in calls in 2019 – an increase of 5,223 calls.

“The vast majority of those who suffer domestic violence and abuse will never actually reach out to a specialist support organisation. So even the increased numbers only reflect the tip of the iceberg,” a statement released today noted.

The charity said its staff and volunteers are preparing for a busy Christmas period “with women calling in the run-up to Christmas worried about their partner’s abusive behaviour, and financial stress”.

The organisation’s helpline – 1800 341 900 – is open every day, including Christmas Day.

Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid, said she is “very concerned” about the possibility of another lockdown in January as “it may deter victims from getting in touch after the Christmas period, when there is traditionally an increase in calls”.

“In recent months we have received calls from women phoning in garden sheds, their cars or bathroom with the shower turned on to mask the conversation.

“Usually after Christmas, people go back to work and the kids go back to school and it creates that breathing space for taking the opportunity to reach out for support. That may not be an option this time around.”

‘Hurt, fear and intimidation’

Benson said Christmas is “a time of hurt, fear, intimidation and intentional cruelty” for some people.

“December and Christmas is a tough time for women and often the abuse they are suffering is more frequent and more severe with women disclosing that they have been assaulted, hospitalised, being ignored and being called the most horrible names.

“Just because it is the festive season, it doesn’t mean that physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse goes away.

“Women tell us that their ex-partners are threatening to withhold finances and presents for the children unless she does what he wants. Women are being manipulated and controlled by their partners,” she said. 

Through its Don’t Suffer in Silence campaign, Women’s Aid is highlighting the supports that are available for victims of domestic abuse.

The charity’s 24-hour freephone helpline can be reached on 1800 341 900. An instant-message support service and further information available can be read here.

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Órla Ryan

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