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Bishop warns of ‘hidden silent pandemic’ of domestic abuse during Covid lockdown

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Bishop Denis Nulty at Saint Saviour's Church, Dominick Street, Dublin. Arthur Carron

Bishop Denis Nulty at Saint Saviour's Church, Dominick Street, Dublin. Arthur Carron

Bishop Denis Nulty at Saint Saviour's Church, Dominick Street, Dublin. Arthur Carron

The head of the Catholic marriage support agency has warned of a "hidden silent pandemic” of domestic abuse that becomes more prevalent when Covid restrictions are stepped up .

In a homily broadcast on local radio yesterday, the Catholic Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Dr Denis Nulty, said domestic abuse can take many forms.

“In this time of pandemic, relationships are being tested and challenged in ways that none of us could ever have foreseen,” he said.

Dr Nulty said lockdown introduces a unique set of new and unfamiliar stressors in a relationship that might struggle to cope in normal times.

He said that with the pressures of loss of income, the stress of working from home and increasing demands from children, it can become harder to avoid the daily frustrations that can flare up into full-blown rows which might begin to feel like “the family is tearing itself apart”.

He said often such conflict starts with a word, a jibe, a cutting searing remark that can cause deep pain.

Highlighting the power of words to wound he said, “We’re reminded in survey after survey of how the violence of the word, the violence of silence, the violence of body-speak can be even more devastating than physical violence.

"Not that physical abuse, domestic abuse should ever be tolerated, it’s just that the word can cut sometimes to the bone.”

In the homily broadcast on KCLR 96FM The bishop appealed to victims, “Don’t suffer in silence”, and he urged them to seek help through Accord’s counselling service, as well as Women’s Aid, Men’s Aid Ireland and, in an emergency, through the gardaí.

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“No one needs to live in fear. I repeat: don’t suffer in silence. Seek help and stop the abuse now whether it be emotional, psychological, physical or coercive control,” Dr Nulty said.

Women’s Aid released figures just ahead of Christmas showing the impact of lockdown on victims of domestic abuse. From March 23 to the end of November, Women’s Aid 24-hour National Freephone Helpline responded to 41pc more calls (17,729) compared to the same period in 2019 (12,506).

CEO Sarah Benson said she was “very concerned” that another lockdown “may deter victims from getting in touch after the Christmas period, when there is traditionally an increase in calls”.

She told how “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”.


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