Last year Domestic Violence Response (DVR) Galway recorded its highest number of new clients and highest level of counseling sessions in its 24 year history.
The charity’s 2021 annual report noted that in many cases Covid-19 restrictions were being used by domestic abusers to exert additional control over their partners.
A total of 266 people used DVR services last year. Some 136 were contacting DVR for the first time and there was a significant increase in the number of returning service users in the latter part of the year.
A total of 51 nights of accommodation were provided in Galway from late June 2020 to December 2021, through a scheme which saw Airbnb partner with Safe Ireland and Women’s Aid to provide free emergency accommodation to victims of domestic violence .
DVR provided 1,449 support sessions to service users last year.
In early summer 2021, Covid-19 restrictions began to be lifted and the charity noted that disclosures from service users were “simple and heartbreaking”. These revelations came mainly from women, but some men also used telephone support.
According to DVR staff, the women said the Covid-19 restrictions were being used as a tactic to impose additional control. The women said their partners were enforcing their isolation, enforcing strict and excessive cleaning routines and meting out penalties for “putting the family at risk”.
A significant increase in disclosures of sexual abuse was also noted by staff during this period.
The report also noted that a Women’s Aid and Safe Ireland Hardship Fund helped women relocate and flee domestic violence. This fund paid for gas costs, phone credit, new clothes and property destroyed by the attacker, as well as setting up new homes and installing a dashcam or CCTV.
Cruinniú, a local charity, donated €6,000 in food vouchers to alleviate hardship for service users over Christmas.
Last year, DVR court defense staff traveled over 100 times to provide face-to-face support at courthouses in Galway City, Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Tuam, Clifden and Derynea.
DVR also worked with the Irish Center for Human Rights at NUI Galway to create a proposal on establishing a support and referral service within the courts for victims of domestic violence. The charity has made a presentation to court staff about it, and the proposal will be developed further this year.
The report also noted developments in DVR services, including improved services for older women, Irish speakers and travellers. Just under two percent of service users last year were of Traveler ethnicity.
Literature in Polish, French and Spanish has also been expanded, as last year 23% of all users of the service were non-Irish.
Elizabeth Power, coordinator of DVR Galway, said her staff had noted an increase in the level of scrutiny and abuse. “The trauma of these experiences will live on with our service users long after Covid-19 has faded from memory.”
The annual report was launched on Monday at DVR’s new premises in Moycullen.
Their old premises in Oughterard were flooded in June last year due to a burst pipe. Damage was caused to promotional materials, brochures and posters, and the flooding caused extensive damage to the exterior floor of the office, electrical outlets and units, such that the office was rendered uninhabitable.
DVR Galway can be contacted on 091 866740.
Women’s Aid can be contacted 24/7 on 1800 341 900.