COPE Galway Domestic Abuse Service has called on the local community to recognise domestic abuse as a wider societal issue.
The organisation is asking people to be alert to the fact that a woman they know may be in an abusive situation at home which may be compounded under COVID restrictions.
Marking the annual global awareness campaign, 16 days of Action on Violence against Women, COPE Galway is calling on neighbours, friends, co-workers and professional services to make a conscious effort to open and keep open the lines of communication with a woman you may not have heard from in a while.
After several months of reduced interaction during the pandemic, it might take more of an effort to contact people – but the organisation says that as a community, we have a role to play in keeping channels of communication open with our friends and neighbours.
“Current living circumstances have eroded opportunities for women and children in abusive situations to seek help, to tell someone, to gain headspace, to reflect,” Dr Carol Baumann, Head of Domestic Abuse at COPE Galway.
“Normal channels for release – friends, professional services, extended family – are closed off, resulting in many more women and children living in more intense, possibly more dangerous homes.”
Dr Baumann advises that if someone is in danger, then the Gardai should be called at 999.
“Do not ignore the signs of isolation – if you see that things are not OK then call us on 091 56 59 85 and we can guide and help work out a way to support,” she said.
“Let your friend know it is possible to get help; if someone asks you to make the call, please do so. Our service is open 24/7. We have space. We have time. We offer support at every stage and guide through each step to take.”
The pandemic has presented a unique opportunity for intimate abuse and control, which thrives in a time of restricted movements and recommendations to work from home, to limit social interaction and to reduce contact.
Dr. Baumann continued: “The current public health messaging, essential in respect of a pandemic, perversely echoes the messages of an abusive partner – no need for you to go to work, stay here with me, we don’t need anyone else, I’ll mind your phone… COVID has become a partner in crime – it does not cause domestic abuse but it certainly promotes it”.
During the international “16 Days of Action” campaign (November 25-December 10), COPE Galway is publishing “Gillian’s Story” on their digital platforms, walking with Gillian as she wrestles with some tough choices.
On the final day, December 10, they launch their Relationship Checklist Poster, which contains some vital questions to ask yourself to determine the health of your relationship.
The poster will be available on www.copegalway.ie and is ready to go into all public outlets throughout city and county.