THE eerie silence of phones at a West Cork domestic violence service has set off alarm bells that the pandemic has left women trapped in their homes by their abusers.
Marie Mulholland of the Bantry-based West Cork Women Against Violence (WCWAV) project, says they typically see 12-15 new clients a month.
However, only three to four women have made contact so far this month – two by email, and two who were referred by other agencies.
They were mainly looking for information, with one saying she could not bear her situation any longer and had to get out.
Marie says that the evidence globally is that domestic violence has increased during the pandemic, and she wants women to know that they have options available to them regardless of the Covid-19 crisis.
‘The phones being so quiet is actually more worrying than them being busy as it’s an indication of the entrapment of women and children that they can’t even get privacy or an opportunity to make a call for help,’ she said. It also shows that women don’t know there are safe places for them to go despite the Covid-19 restrictions.
‘We want women to know that we are still here and we have worked very hard to make sure we have several self-contained apartments available for women and their children in West Cork,’ said Marie.
‘Women who live with abusers are now in lockdown and are more than likely believing that there are no options in this present situation. Where could she go? How can she keep herself and her kids safe in the midst of a pandemic? Everywhere is closed and he will have made sure to convince her that nobody cares about her. That’s why it is so important to let trapped women know we are still here and we can still help.’ Marie was commenting as a national #wearestillhere campaign was launched by the Department of Justice designed to highlight the situation.
The campaign seeks to reassure victims that services are ‘still here’, and that victims are being prioritised during this emergency. It’s also supported by Cork’s Cuanlee Refuge, Mna Feasa, and the Sexual Violence Centre Cork. Mary Crilly of the Sexual Violence Centre said: ‘We are still here and we all have a part to play in keeping each other safe and calling out perpetrators. Keep in contact with family friends and neighbours and be in no doubt that sexual and domestic violence will continue if not escalate during the lockdown.’
See stillhere.ie or westcorkwomensproject.ie for more.