Worrying rise in domestic violence incidents in Offaly
There has been a rise in domestic violence incidents in Offaly and Laois since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Getting help to victims of domestic violence and supports in place is more crucial now than it ever has been.
There can be nothing more frightening than being in a domestic abusive relationship and being afraid to leave or feeling that there is no one to help.
Unfortunately, there still seems to be a “sure it’s none of my business” attitude in the public domain. The key message all State and voluntary stakeholders are asking is to report your concerns as this may be the first chance to help a victim escape the situation, and that if you are a victim of domestic abuse to report it.
Anne Clarke works with the Offaly Domestic Violence Support Service (ODVSS).
“2020 has been a challenging year for domestic violence support services, we have seen a 50% increase in victims/survivors looking for help and support. Covid has placed a microscope under, what already was an existing pandemic in Ireland. Domestic abuse cuts across all sectors of the community it does not discriminate.
“Covid is the perfect storm for the perpetrator as their main goal is to isolate the victim from supports, many now in 24/7 lockdown with their abuser, no respite, no support network, no way out. Our message is that we are #StillHere if you need support and you are not alone.
“If you are experiencing domestic violence or abuse call our helpline on 0579351886 or 0860419154, if it’s not safe to talk send us a text. Always be safe with reaching out.
The ODVSS report that in 2020 they saw 180 new clients compared to 117 in 2017. Individual clients to the service amounted to 240, in 2019 it was 185.
They saw client contact make the biggest jump from 869 in 2019 to 1720 in 2020 it was 1720. Client contacts represent the number of times they engage with a victim. The Offaly service says court orders rose in 2019 from 98 to 160 in 2020. In 2020 the Offaly service recorded over 2061 calls on the helpline, that’s an additional 600 more calls on 2019.
Similarly, Laois Domestic Abuse Service saw increases in demand for services from March 2020 330 clients engaged with, 102 referrals to court, LDAS received 1069 phone calls (from clients and client-related), and LDAS made 2278 phone calls (from clients and client-related). MORE BELOW TABLE
Coercive control, financial abuse, emotional abuse, and physical abuse were the emerging trends along with child to parent violence and elder abuse. The poverty and lack of resources were worrying.
There is no emergency accommodation for victims of domestic abuse in either Laois or Offaly and many times victims had no choice but to remain in the home.
The Rent Supplement that is now screened by domestic violence services has helped those who have been able to find private rented accommodation along with the Airbnb safe fund for accommodation which has been in operation since July 2020.
Other initiatives in the community like Boots and Total Health pharmacies providing a safe space for a victim to call or seek help and advice added to the response during Covid.
Laois Domestic Abuse Service is involved in the MEND Programme and saw a lot of new referrals to this program over the last year , while the perpetrator is completing the MEND Program they offer Partner Support to the women so a weekly check in is provided to ensure the Woman's Safety. They offer this service for Laois and Offaly.
MEN's Aid and ODVSS support male victims so male victims in Laois can avail of this service also. LDAS would refer men to ODVSS for support and advice.
MEND [Men Ending Domestic Violence] is a programme for men, who have been violent or abusive within their intimate partner relationships. The primary aim of the programme is the safety and well-being of women and children. MEND deliver the National Choices Programme to support men to end their violent or abusive behaviour and become non-violent and respectful within their intimate partner relationships.
The Programme involves one-to-one assessment and pre-group sessions followed by 25 group sessions. MEND also provides an integrated Partner Support Service for the partners or ex-partners or the men on the programme. Help is available and can be found from the MEND programmes in Waterford, Wexford, South Tipperary and Carlow/Kilkenny, Laois/Offaly and Kildare.
To find out more you can contact the Confidential Phone Line on 051-878866 (available Mon-Fri 9am-5pm).
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Recently there have been changes to the legislation with the introduction of the Domestic Violence Aft 2018 and the
Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020 “Coco’s Law”. These further enhance the protection for victims of domestic abuse.
The new Domestic Violence Act 2018 introduced the offence of Coercive Control which has been defined as a person commits an offence where he or she knowingly and persistently engages in behaviour that is controlling or coercive, has a serious effect on a relevant person, and a reasonable person would consider likely to have a serious effect on a relevant person.
Coercive control occurs when a current or ex-partner knowingly and persistently engages in behaviour that is controlling or intimidating and is having a serious effect on a person. The victim may fear that violence will be used against them, or they may be suffering serious alarm or distress that has a substantial impact on their day-to-day activities.
The victim of coercive control may have their freedom of movement reduced. Every aspect of their life may be controlled by their current or ex-partner, including access to their personal finances and the freedom to see family and friends.
Coercive control is the collection of small, seemingly minor incidents or details that in isolation are not a criminal offence, but when viewed together display a web of abuse that is insidiously and forcibly eroding at a person’s quality of life.
The new act also introduced an Emergency Baring order. It is always advisable to seek advice from family law solicitors, the domestic abuse services (Laois Domestic Abuse Services Offaly Domestic Violence Support Service or Mensaid or An Garda Siochana.
The recent commencement of Divisional Protective Services Units in Garda Divisions including Laois Offaly will deliver a consistent and professional approach to the investigation of specialised crime types, including sexual crime, child abuse and domestic abuse.
An Garda Síochána can provide support and information to victims of coercive control. If a victim wishes to make a formal complaint, we can investigate. To assist us in investigating coercive control and preparing a strong case, we will need to gather evidence such as a diary the victim has been keeping, text messages and emails that highlight the abuse, and accounts from family and friends.
Please refer to Facebook pages for Laois Domestic Abuse Service and ODVSS for updates and raise awareness regarding Domestic Violence in your local area.