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Abuse victims 'sneaking out to their cars to call for help' - Women's Aid

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Sarah Benson of Women’s Aid

Sarah Benson of Women’s Aid

Sarah Benson of Women’s Aid

Women's Aid has revealed that its helpline is receiving calls from women who have had to sneak out to their cars to get support during the current crisis.

The frontline organisation supporting victims of domestic violence has said it is deeply concerned about the impact of the Covid-19 emergency on the safety of women and children.

Chief executive Sarah Benson said it is a "perfect storm" of circumstances, with everybody in the household required to be in that home 24/7, so there is no safe place to go, there is no safe place to get respite.

"It becomes an intensely suffocating environment," she said.

"We have had women who have had to sneak out to their cars, just to try and make a phone call, just to try and get some emotional support, and we are also obviously hearing of awful abuse that is happening.

"What is more aggravating now is that women are feeling like they have nowhere to go to get away or that their options have been curtailed.

"The other thing that has been coming up quite a bit in recent days, is where they may be callers who themselves have health issues, where their abusive partners are using their fear of the virus to terrorise them in that they are refusing to take any precautions, they are refusing to wash their hands.

Vigilant

"It is being used as a new tactic to terrorise.

"Where somebody wants to control, wants to abuse, they will use any tactic available."

She pointed out that where women have lost their jobs, or are fearful in relation to finances, that also reduces their options if they need to get out.

"We have been in touch with gardai at a very senior level, to make sure that they are absolutely vigilant in reminding all of their members that they are a critical first responder in terms of holding perpetrators to account," she said.

"If there are protective orders in place, they must be enforced if they are not, or if they are breached, because for many women who have chosen to try and get safety through the courts, that is literally all they have to protect them, and the message has to be very, very clear from the gardai."

She told the Herald that the refuges are doing their "absolute utmost".

However, she pointed out that even before this crisis, the refuge sector and refuges were under-resourced, and they did not have sufficient beds.

"One of the things we have done is extended the access to our support around advising women on applying for protection orders," Ms Benson said.

"We are all trying to target our resources in the safest way possible."

For anyone affected, contact Women's Aid 24-hour National Freephone Helpline on 1800 341 900, or see safeireland.ie