Restrictions on movement has meant women and men have been trapped with their tormentors, handing power to them, writes Colette Fitzpatrick
‘A rapid and sustained increase” in the number of children reporting domestic violence to child protection services since the Covid-19 lockdown period began.
Those are the words of the Policing Authority only a few weeks ago.
“Rapid and sustained”. They sound like the sort of words the American military might use to describe an escalation in combat operations.
“It happened quickly and he didn’t stop.” The calls from terrified children describing what their dad was doing to their mum or to them.
It’s food for thought if your biggest issues during lockdown have been worrying about getting your deposit back on the apartment you booked in Spain or your greying roots.
The lockdown, while aimed at taming the coronavirus, created another epidemic.
It meant women and men have been trapped with their tormentors, handing power to them.
They have been confined together with little opportunity to escape, even for an hour or two, to let him or her cool down, and the conflicts are happening more often.
Neither party is able to talk to someone else, to get away, as the danger intensifies and every minor gripe heightens until blows are raining down, with nobody there to step in and stop it.
All of the support networks victims might normally have are gone – no meeting with pals in a playground or for a coffee in a shopping centre, no job to go to for a break, perhaps no one to even call or confide in.
A study of domestic violence found that common tools of abuse are isolation from friends, family and employment and constant surveillance.
Others include strict, detailed rules for behaviour and restrictions on access to such basic necessities as food, clothing and sanitary facilities.
It’s often called "intimate terrorism" or "coercive control".
We had the very first conviction for coercive control in Ireland in February. It was handed down at the circuit court in Donegal.
Studies also show that abusers are more likely to murder their partners and others in the wake of personal crises, including lost jobs or major financial setbacks.
The gardai launched Operation Faoiseamh in a bid to help prevent loss of life and to ensure victims of domestic abuse were protected during this extraordinary time.
Last week, officers said there has been a 25pc increase in calls for assistance concerning domestic violence issues in the past year.
An EU report previously confirmed that one in four Irish women suffers violence.
Now it’s up again. Domestic violence is clearly nearer to us than many of us could have believed.
The pattern of increases in domestic abuse has been played out in every corner of the world during this pandemic.
The fear now is that the next crisis will be drastically under-funded support services for victims.