'He split me open," said the woman. "He dragged me out of the house... there was blood everywhere." It was Wednesday at the only family court in Dublin still functioning in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis.
Every facet of life has been affected by the pandemic and the services dealing with the grim world of domestic violence are no different.
Normally, four or five courtrooms in the Dolphin House complex are busy with family law cases but now only one courtroom at a time can be used because of social distancing regulations.
The court building is a former hotel with a front door that leads on to the cobbled streets of Temple Bar. As a hotel, it was a venue for dining and dating. Now, the converted building doesn't see much by way of romance.
A sign on the front door declares: "Due to Covid-19, this office will deal with emergency applications for domestic violence only."
There has been an increase in the numbers of interim barring orders and interim protection orders being issued since the pandemic restrictions came into force. Just one judge was handling all emergency cases on the day the Sunday Independent visited the court. Judge Gerard Furlong listened to the stories of more than 20 people, mainly women but some men too, who came seeking emergency help.
There were tales of terror and torment, menace and worry, heartbreak and sadness. The judge read aloud each person's brief statements which were affirmed under oath.
As he was dealing with emergency measures only, he mainly provided individuals with protection orders and a few barring orders and they were made on an interim basis. Future court dates were assigned to each case for a hearing of both sides.
The judge listened to each person's story and then slowly explained how each new order he made was intended to protect them.
Protection orders were served on individuals by gardai and were issued to prevent people being harassed, attacked, threatened, stalked or abused.
The judge urged victims to contact gardai immediately if the protection orders were breached.
He spoke in a kind, reassuring tone, and the applicants standing before him were visibly relieved by his words.
The woman who told the judge how she was "split open" in a bloody attack by her former boyfriend was hugely relieved when Judge Furlong granted her an interim barring order against him.
The judge had read aloud her statement. She described how her ex-boyfriend was the father of her four-year-old daughter and how they had lived together briefly over six months ago.
His latest unwelcome visit happened the previous day when he barged into her home intoxicated with drink and drugs. Two weeks earlier, she said, "he slit me open. He beat me really badly. He dragged me out of the house and hit me with something but I don't know what. There was blood everywhere.
"Nearly every week he comes over to the house. He follows me as well. If he sees me driving, he chases me and bangs on the windows. My daughter is terrified. He sends me messages too and threatens to kill me, to take my child and burn my house and car.
"He smashed my TV and phone. I'm afraid of him and I need a protection order. He is really big."
Another woman told the judge that she and her partner and two children were homeless and had lived in the same hotel room for a year. Her partner was a violent man.
The previous night, at 1am, her partner had a row with their nine-year-old son about whether Frosty The Snowman was real or not. Her partner took a shoe and beat his son over the head. He also hit her and their teenage son with the shoe.
She and her two children had moved into a refuge for domestic violence victims. The judge issued her with a protection order covering her and the children.
She told the judge she did not want to ever return to living in the hotel room where they had spent a year.
The court heard from a man who was successful in being granted a protection order against his wife. He said his life was hell because of constant abuse and intimidation by her.
She constantly threw his possessions out of the house and denied him the keys to his bedroom as she tried to get him to leave home. They live with their three children - a teenager and two young adults.
He said he suffers from a number of health issues yet his wife exposes him regularly to the threat of Covid-19 by breaching social distancing rules with regular visits to the homes of neighbours and friends.
Another man, who is himself the subject of a protection order obtained by his wife, was granted a protection order after telling the judge he had been assaulted by his wife.
"I am terrified I will be put out of my house," he said.
The judge fixed a court date in September when both could attend to address matters.
A woman who lived with her alcoholic husband fled after he "smashed up" the house they own yet again. He changed the locks after she left. The judge granted her a protection order. She was entitled to return home and call gardai if he breached the protection order.
Another woman told of how a man had been terrorising her for years and had recently posted threats against her on her husband's Facebook page.
She said: "He told me last week: 'This is a war. I will finish you. It will never be finished until I finish you'."
The woman told the judge she was afraid because "he always follows through with his threats".
There were many other cases, including a woman seeking a barring order against her son, and a woman whose ex-boyfriend threatened to slit her throat.
Another woman said her ex-boyfriend refused to conduct Facetime calls with their child during the Covid crisis and continued to show up on her doorstep demanding to see the child.
In another case, an older woman came to the court seeking a barring order against her son.
In many cases, the judge spent several minutes explaining different options open to those seeking his help. They responded with words of gratitude.
Tragically, over the years, gardai conducting murder investigations have frequently applied to the family courts for details of statements made to the courts by women who would later been murdered by a violent partner or spouse.
A source in the family courts system had told this newspaper there was deep concern about how the family courts system could return to normal functioning in a n era where social distancing is the new norm.
Many types of cases concerning access to children and maintenance payments are not being addressed during the current health crisis so significant pressure will hit family courts when efforts are made to restore normal services.
Gardai continue to prioritise domestic violence cases for immediate action.
Normally, the Dolphin House court building has people "packed like sardines" in public waiting areas waiting for their cases.
A new family courts building has been in the planning stages for years. Perhaps the design of the new building should be re-examined in the light of social distancing requirements, said the source.
In recent days, Sharon O'Halloran, co-chief executive of Safe Ireland - the national agency working with 38 locally based services for abused women - said services for victims had been grossly under-resourced for decades, "Every year, more than 3,000 requests for a place in a refuge are refused due to lack of space. There are only 138 accommodation units nationally and this is only one-third of what is needed," she said..
At the court session last Wednesday, a woman brought her toddler and her newborn baby into the courtroom to seek a barring order against her husband. Her English was poor and the judge said he would arrange an interpreter to help her during her next appearance.
She said her husband punched her in the face when she was pregnant, frequently locked her in their Dublin apartment and installed cameras to monitor her movements. Her husband was not working because of Covid restrictions, and she was afraid of him. She was living with her two children in a refuge for domestic violence victims in another county.
"I want to go home," she told Judge Furlong, who issued an interim barring order against her husband so that she could do so.
Some time after her case was completed, she needed time to arrange certain matters with court staff and a taxi was ordered to take her to her refuge accommodation.
There was visible evidence of the care and concern shown by people who work in the court building when court garda Paul Campion stepped forward to offer the woman some help with her children as she had no friends to assist her.
Garda Campion, a 52-year-old father of five, could be seen later sitting alone in the foyer, cradling the newborn boy.
He held a bottle of milk gently to the infant's lips.
The baby drank quietly, calm and comfortable in the garda's arms.