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People experiencing domestic abuse during COVID-19 have a new support

By Katie Ascough - 05 June, 2020

At the launch of CRiTiCall were Garda Stephanie Bible, Kevin Street Community Team; Nobby Hanlon, Estate Manager of Elveden House, The Iveagh Trust; Emma Reidy, SAFE Ireland Board Member and CEO of Aoibhneas Domestic Abuse Support for Women and Children; Eddie McGuinness; Lord Mayor Tom Brabazon; Superintendent Michael McNulty, Kevin Street Garda Station; The Very Rev William Morton, Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral; Edwina Dewart, Manager Dublin City Volunteer Centre; Sergeant Ian Lambe, Community Policing, Kevin Street. (Photo: Joe Gavin)

Seven organisations have come together to support people emerging from violence and abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CRiTiCall – Community Response Team Call – is a new initiative involving Saint Patrick’s, SAFE Ireland, Dublin City Volunteer Centre, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Volunteer Centre, Fingal Volunteer Centre, South Dublin County Volunteer Centre and Wicklow Volunteer Centre.

One of the tragic side effects of restrictions introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19 has been an increase in reports of domestic abuse. There has been a surge in demand for supports for people experiencing abuse in the home, with many refuges full. CRiTiCall offers a number of different responses to this and gives people who want to volunteer from home amid the pandemic an opportunity to do so.

In the first phase, the partners are appealing for several responses and the participating volunteer centres have announced a list of ways to be involved:

–          Donations – purchasing much-needed items and dropping them off in Dublin 8.

–          Volunteer your home – volunteer a holiday home or second property as a safe haven.

–          Write letters of courage and hope to those emerging from domestic abuse.

Kelley Bermingham, Community Officer with Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, explains that An Garda Síochána has reported increased incidents of domestic abuse: “Under Operation Faoisimh, An Garda Síochána has recorded a 25 per cent increase in reports of domestic abuse compared to the same period last year. Already, many refuges are at full capacity. We want to ensure that when people are ready to make the courageous step to leave an abusive situation that we have every resource to hand to support them in their recovery and pathway to a new, safe life,” she says.

Lord Mayor of Dublin, Tom Brabazon, adds: “Domestic abuse takes many forms, as we know, so the response must be flexible, creative, and sadly immediate when danger is imminent. Lots of people feel unable to support someone, as they are reluctant to get involved, to interfere, to take sides, to put themselves at risk. CRiTiCall shows people how they might be able to respond to the needs of men, women and children in different ways and, as Lord Mayor, I fully support this coordinated community response, as do my colleagues.”

Mary McDermott and Sharon O’Halloran, Co-CEOs of SAFE Ireland, say the initiative is very welcome: “This is an amazing example of what is possible when organisations join together to support women and children who are living with domestic abuse and coercive control. If we want to dream about having safe homes, we need safe communities that are prepared to support survivors and reach out safely to women and children who may not be able to because of the control of their abusers. This response is also fantastic because it is providing support to help a woman along her journey to safety from the provision of practical resources to police support to safe accommodation in the community.”

Dublin City Volunteer Centre Manager, Edwina Dewart, says volunteer centres, at the heart of local communities, have always sought to connect people who are moved to respond to community needs with relevant groups and causes. “COVID-19 has proven how volunteers are prepared to go above and beyond for those who need it most. We are delighted to be a core part of this wonderful, needed initiative and will work with our partners, now and into the future, on how we all creatively continue to provide practical supports around domestic violence,” she adds.

The Very Rev William Morton, Dean of Saint Patrick’s, says that the initiative provides a chance to reach out in support: “At a time when we are separated from our social network and supports, it is very difficult to contemplate the challenge that this presents for people who live with those who are the source of fear, violence and abuse. At this time, in this crisis, we reach out to extend ourselves to those who are living in such dire circumstances to do what we can to help, to support and to respond.”

Superintendent Michael McNulty from Kevin Street Station points out that An Garda Síochána continues to reach out and support the most vulnerable in society, and in particular victims of domestic abuse. “Operation Faoiseamh was launched in response to the increase in domestic abuse cases, and it offers additional supports and protections. The response from victims has been overwhelmingly positive. Gardaí fully support CRiTiCall which is a fantastic initiative. I believe such a collaborative approach involving voluntary and state agencies will provide a clear path to safety for victims of domestic abuse,” he says.

Offers of support to assist people will be directed to Kelley Bermingham, Community Officer of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and Lisa Marmion, Services Development Manager of SAFE Ireland. These practical resources will then be allocated to where they are most needed through partnership with various organisations including An Garda Síochána, The Iveagh Trust and Serve the City, maintaining dignity and respect for those who receive the gifts. Accommodation will be channelled via Lisa Marmion in SAFE Ireland.

The list of ways people can help along with how to get in touch can be viewed here.

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