Lockdown 'the perfect canvas' for abusers to work from, charity warns

A Cork charity has appealed to anyone suffering domestic violence or coercive control to get in t...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.00 9 Mar 2021

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Lockdown 'the perfect canvas'...

Lockdown 'the perfect canvas' for abusers to work from, charity warns

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.00 9 Mar 2021

Share this article

A Cork charity has appealed to anyone suffering domestic violence or coercive control to get in touch and seek help.

It comes after one listener text into Newstalk over her domestic situation.

Coordinator of the West Cork Women Against Violence Project, Marie Mulholland, told Lunchtime Live the problem has been exacerbated by COVID-19.


"What you're dealing with now are women and children who are living with abusers - and abuse is about control.

"It's about keeping control, and it's about being able to have power over the people that you live with.

"And with lockdown, in a sense, it's made easier because society is under control - we've all had to stay in one place, we've all had to kind of be restricted.

"And so it plays right into the hands of abusers, so that gives them a perfect canvas from which to work."

'Measuring petrol in the car'

She also said it makes it more difficult for those affected to make contact with services.

"During the last lockdown, we had a woman who was taking the child out in the pram for a walk and she would try to ring us then.

"Another woman who, he was with her in the car with the children, they were going somewhere for a walk and she said she had a headache - and she would just sit in the car while he took the kids out and she was trying to ring us".

"Coercive control is a long, sustained pattern of behaviour and abuse - but it sort of came to ahead during the lockdown.

"We've come across cases where he measures the petrol in the car, so he knows if she's been further down the road to get milk.

"If she's gone to see her mother - who she's not allowed to see - or if she's been in contact with her best friend.

"The first step is to know that we're still here, all of the domestic violence services are still at the end of the phone.

"And the second thing to know that's really important is we believe you."

Marie said she understands what a giant step it is to ask for help.

"It takes great courage, it takes great honesty to say 'Look I'm in trouble here, my relationship is not what I thought it was going to be and I'm really concerned or I'm really scared'.

"If you're scared of the person you live with, you need to pick up the phone in a safe way and tell someone about that".

Listener text

A listener then text into Lunchtime Live on 53106: 'Thank you so much for speaking about this issue - one of your examples that Marie has just given is actually my current situation.

'So much so, that I'll have to delete this message after I send it into you'.

Offering advice, Marie said: "What I would suggest to that woman is e-mail, or a neighbour - if she even gets contact with a neighbour.

"The great thing too, now, is that the schools are back and that gives women an opportunity to get out to the school gate.

"And if there's somebody there they could tell to make the call for them, or to ring the Guards.

"Then the Guards can create that space whereby she can talk to somebody else as well".

Marie also said any domestic violence website will also have a facility to "cover your tracks".

"If you're going on to look for help or send a message, there's always a button that you can press - usually at the top of the page of the website - that says 'press this button if you need to cover your tracks'", she explained.

Anonymous donor

It comes after the charity recently received an anonymous donation to open its first ever safe house for women and children.

The private donor has allowed the project to purchase a house, which will be used to give families fleeing domestic violence a place of safety, shelter and support.

It is expected that remaining funding from the €400,000 donation will be used to acquire further supports - possibly a second smaller property to also provide a safe space.

On this Marie said: "It's absolutely incredible - but the question that needs to be asked Andrea is why does a private donor have to come forward to do this.

"We're hearing from the Government all the time all these concerned statements about the rise of domestic violence... but where's the resources, where's the real resources in terms of increasing the capacity for emergency accommodation?

"We are so under par in this country, and have been for a very long time, we're nowhere bear where we should be".

Lockdown 'the perfect canvas' for abusers to work from, charity warns

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Anyone affected by issues raised in this article can contact the West Cork Women Against Violence Project on 1800-203-136, Women's Aid at 1800-341-900 or see a list of services here.

In an emergency dial 999 or 112.

Main image: A shadow of a man as a woman cowers in the corner. This image has been posed. Picture by: Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/PA Images

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