Newly elected Senator Pauline O’Reilly is calling for greater support for domestic abuse victims and services during the Covid-19 crisis.
Concerns have been raised that the restrictions that have been put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus are making it more difficult for victims of domestic abuse to contact services that can help them, even though they remain open.
“With a further three week extension of the current lock-down, our thoughts must go to those who experience little peace in their own homes.
“The reality is that while we we all know that this is going on, the calls to services have not been happening as they usually would.”
“This may be because victims usually wait until the violent member of their family is out of the house. Now there is no leaving the house for many.”
A major campaign across tv, radio, and social being run in collaboration by the government and frontline services got underway this week.
The Still Here campaign aims to reach out to victims of domestic violence and abuse to reassure them that services and supports are still there for them, even in this lockdown.
And while the majority of non-urgent court sittings are being adjourned at this time, emergency court sittings are still taking place.
“There are a number of orders that can be sought, including emergency orders which last for a limited time until a longer term barring order can be put in place,” Pauline O’Reilly.
“We must continue to get the message out there that no one is being forced by this current lock-down to live with a violent person”.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said “I also want to say, unequivocally, to all abusers that the rigors of the law are also ‘still here’.”
There is nowhere for perpetrators to hide. Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has made the point on a number of occasions recently that Gardaí are prioritising domestic abuse.”
“The same is the case for the entire civil and criminal justice system. We stand together with our NGO partners in our support for victims of domestic and sexual violence during this difficult period.”
Dr Carol Baumann, Manager of COPE Galway’s Domestic Abuse Service welcomed the rollout of the campaign, saying that it’s important to remind people that they are still open.
“While we have received some new calls, really it is the silence that is ominous,” she said, adding that their concern is that women may find it harder to get in touch with “little windows of freedom” while their partner is out of the house closing.
“Our advice to any woman in danger or at risk – take whatever opportunity to reach out that feels safe to you.”
Services such as COPE have also been put under pressure by the fact that they rely strongly on public support to keep their services running at full capacity.
But the public restrictions in place for the current health crisis have made it much harder for them to fundraise, with collections at large events or on the street no longer possible.
The charity made an urgent appeal at the start of April for support from the public to ensure that there is no interruption in their services.
Senator O’Reilly said that it’s crucial that services remain fully resourced to deal with the crisis in domestic violence.
While the Department of Justice has pledged €160,000 to help with domestic violence services during this crisis, this is just 10% of what the sector is calling for O’Reilly said.
The senator said that she would like to see the government expand access to services at this time,
In particular saying that an emergency warning system at pharmacies, where victims of abuse could use a safe word to alert staff of their situation, would be highly useful she said.
“Covid 19 brings new challenges for families, from financial pressures to living together closer than ever before.”
“This means we need to step up our efforts to support women, men, and children who are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence”.