This week Amarach Research in collaboration with Saoirse Women’s Refuge, designed and ran a rapid data collection and response panel to ascertain the prevalence of Domestic Violence in the current lockdown climate, as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Past research tells us that one of the commonest contexts for Domestic Violence to thrive, is when the perpetrator isolates the victim from family and friends. This is very often a consequence of many months and sometimes years of coercive controlling behaviour on the part of the perpetrator to separate the victim from their loved ones so that he (and sometimes she) can have total control over their partner. Some of the agencies working with the victims of these crimes throughout the country noticed a fall in the number of calls to the helplines since the Covid-19 lockdown began including Saoirse which was a big concern for everyone working in this area.
Saoirse is a refuge for women and children who are seeking shelter from abusive relationships. Saoirse provides physical shelter in the form of safe and secure family units in Tallaght and Rathcoole. It also provides outreach services in West Wicklow and in the Dublin 12 area and it has a 24 hour helpline and employs 50 people. Its clients can come from many parts of the country. All the clients of Saoirse, have experienced some form of abuse from a partner and this can range from physical, emotional, psychological, coercive control, digital and financial abuse. It is totally funded by Tusla the Child and Family Agency, with some support from fundraising and is one of many such agencies that offer similar supports to women and children around the country.
We now know victims are much more vulnerable during times of isolation The Amarach Smartphone panel is built to be a national representative of age, gender, region and social class. The Smart Phone Panel polled on Monday this week, April 28th. The panel achieved 1,710 responses during the two hours that the poll was live which is a very high response rate. This is a difficult and sensitive topic to survey, however the smartphone polling enables respondents to complete their responses securely and privately through their smartphone.
The research was designed to understand, at a very high level, the extent and scope of the issue of domestic abuse and coercive control in Ireland at this time. It was not designed or intended to be a definitive statement on the issue, however it does give us information that highlights a problem in our society that we must not ignore now or after the lockdown. It provides us with a stark reminder of the prevalence and challenges of the problem across all components of Irish Society. Almost one in three of us (29%) is aware of a case of Domestic Violence or Coercive Control. It could be a family member, a friend or the respondent themselves.
The research demonstrates that there is no stereotypical victim. Victims come from every walk of life in Ireland. One in five women and one in twenty men stated that they have been in a relationship where they felt vulnerable to or experienced domestic abuse and coercive control.
The Covid-19 restrictions on movement have certainly brought the issue to the forefront of people’s minds. The challenge for society will be that it doesn’t slip down the agenda once the crisis recedes.
We at Soairse are very grateful for this collaboration with Amarach Research and this outcome further emphasises the requirement to undertake further research, both qualitative and quantitative into the issue.
Ellen O’Malley Dunlop
Acting CEO Saoirse Refuge