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06 Dec 2021

‘Gardaí are here to listen and to help’ victims of domestic violence, says Garda chief

An Garda Síochána provides advice to Victims of Coercive Control

An Garda Síochána provides advice to Victims of Coercive Control

Gardaí in the Longford and Granard districts have seen a marked increase in the number of domestic violence incidents since the beginning of the pandemic.

Superintendent Seamus Boyle has emphasised that gardaí “are here to listen and to help and to offer advice”.

“I would add that there’s no shame in being a victim and it’s both men and women (victims) that I’ve come across, and there are services and agencies for both,” he said.

“It’s seen with all nationalities, all social statuses, and all genders. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or psychological and it’s often inflicted by a family member or a partner.”

However, despite the increase in reported incidents of domestic violence, Supt Boyle believes that “there’s probably not that many new people coming into the system, but a greater increase of the people who were already in the system”.

“So, it’s couples that would have been fighting let’s say once a month, they could be fighting twice a month now, that sort of stuff,” he said, which indicates that more people are availing of the supports of organisations like An Garda Síochána and Longford Women’s Link.

Gardaí have a pro-arrest policy when it comes to assaults and domestic violence, he added, with offenders brought to court, given strict bail conditions and a court order “and the actual fear of re-offending can certainly quell the situation”.

“We also have an in-person call back policy where we will call back within a week to the victim,” Supt Boyle explained.

“What we do here is we look at every incident the morning after it happened, or let’s say the Monday morning after the weekend, and we would send a car out.

“Or, if some people don’t want a car to call out, we will make contact by phone to the injured party. But we will make a contact.”

These are policies that have always been in place but over the past 15 months, since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the need for that garda support has increased significantly.

“Definitely, we’ve seen a big increase in domestic violence since the pandemic began,” said Supt Boyle.

“People are at home more often. They’re in the house more, and there’s very few places that victims can go. There’s people who haven’t been working and it’s very stressful, this Covid, for everyone.”

A very significant form of domestic abuse is coercive control, which can leave victims feeling isolated and unsure of where to turn.

“Coercive control is like isolation from your family and friends and being deprived of your basic needs, food, electricity, and heating, monitoring your behavior, monitoring your phones, putting a tracking device on your phone or spyware,” said Supt Boyle.

“They can take control of your everyday activities, what you wear, when you sleep, and stuff like that. Humiliation, degrading, dehumanising, threats and intimidation, damaging belongings. It’s not uncommon.”

The Garda website provides valuable information on the process of reporting domestic abuse and the support the gardaí can offer, as well as information on the different court orders that can be sought to ensure the safety of the victim and their children.

For more information, visit www.garda.ie.

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