The Domestic Violence services at Longford Women’s Link have been hit exceptionally hard since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw lockdowns and job losses force more and more people to stay at home for extended periods of time.
For those living with violence or other forms of abuse in the household, this has caused untold pain and suffering, prompting a significant increase in the number of victims seeking the help of Longford Women’s Link and other domestic violence services.
From mid-March 2019 to mid-May of the same year, there were 81 women availing of the LWL services, with 16 of those requiring court accompaniment or crisis response.
That figure jumped significantly during the same time period in 2020, with 105 clients availing of services and 29 needing court accompaniment or crisis response in the first two months of the pandemic.
Again, in 2021, that figure has risen to 108 women turning to Longford Women’s Link between mid-March and mid-May, 38 of whom needed crisis response.
That’s a 33% increase in the number of women seeking help since the same time period in pre-pandemic 2019 - and a whopping 137.5% increase in the number of victims needing court accompaniment or crisis response.
Those figures speak for themselves. And, unfortunately, the shocking statistics don’t end there.
LWL’s annual statistics for 2019 show that there were 5,594 interactions with 371 women - figures which rose significantly in 2020 when Covid-19 made prisoners of the nation.
In 2020, LWL reported 6,287 interactions with 410 women. That’s roughly 12% more interactions on the previous year, with 10% more women who have sought help with violent or abusive situations.
But the Domestic Violence team is happy that it got to provide that support at all, with 543 face-to-face interactions with women who needed help and a total of 177 court accompaniments since the pandemic began.
“What we’ve seen is that the epidemic has met the pandemic,” said Tara Farrell of LWL’s Domestic Violence Service.
“It’s nothing new for us that have been working in the sector, because it’s always been there, but the pandemic has really exposed it.
“And we could argue over and back whether there’s been an increase, or whether it’s just that we’re seeing it now because of the nature and all of the risk factors associated with domestic violence, and the pandemic exacerbating them.”
Longford Women’s Link is one of the few face-to-face services that stayed open at the height of the pandemic and the service has been the saving grace of many women who have found themselves in abusive situations caused by the added stress of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It was a difficult decision, because we had to think of not only the women, but the staff, and we need to think of their safety, as well,” Tara explained.
“And at the start of this, nobody knew what the outcome was going to be. We didn’t think we’d still be here. There was a certain amount of crisis response to get a plan in place. Then you’re six months into it, then you’re 12 months into it, and it really takes its toll.”
“We’ve become more finely-tuned towards that crisis response,” added Heather McKenna of the Domestic Violence Services.
“A huge part of that is our partnership with the Gardaí, and the follow-through there with them. A lot of our referrals would come from the guards.”
In fact, An Garda Síochána has taken a very pro-active response to domestic abuse throughout the pandemic.
“We always worked well enough with the Gardaí, but I think the pandemic really fostered that,” Tara agreed.
“There was this immediate crisis; the guards recognised it, we obviously have been working with it, and it’s... yes, I think it’s resulted in a really productive and positive relationship.”
LWL Domestic Violence Service provides crisis support by phone (043 3341511) Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Outside of these hours, contact the Women’s Aid 24 hour National Helpline on 1800 341900.
If you hear or see violent behaviour, call 999 or if you’d like to speak to someone at LWL, call 043 3341511.
Domestic violence calls are considered high priority by the Gardaí. If you are in danger, call 999 or 112.
For further information, visit www.lwl.ie or www.garda.ie
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