Suffering in silence

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IN last week’s edition of the Limerick Post we revealed that during  the Covid-19 lockdown, there was a significant increase in reports to the Gardaí of domestic abuse.

Complaints relating to violence in the home went up by around  one third in Limerick. Meanwhile, ADAPT House, the organisation which supports and provides safe space for victims of abuse, reported that there was a 50 per cent rise in calls to their helpline just before lockdown.

And a worrying silence over the following weeks.

It is hard for most of us, who enjoy the peace and refuge of our own four walls, to imagine what the last three months have been like for those who are living with abusers.

Domestic abuse is usually an ongoing, deliberate campaign of psychological and physical violence designed to satisfy the abuser’s desire for control. Abusers who experience a sudden increase in stress often compensate by escalating their attacks in order to regain a sense of power and agency.

For many abuse survivors, the lockdown has meant living in terror.

The fear their abusers engender is not always that of physical violence, although it often is or just on the verge of being so. It can also take the form of coercive control, sexual, emotional or financial abuse.

Imagine for a minute being locked down for three months with someone who regularly checks your phone to see who your last call was made to?

Imagine having your purse emptied on to the table, receipts examined and being questioned about the need to buy every household item from toilet paper to meat for the dinner?

Imagine being locked down with someone who goes through the underwear you’ve put in the laundry basket and uses it to accuse you of being sexually unfaithful, even though you haven’t been out of his sight for weeks?

Imagine having to go to the toilet in an old jumper in the corner of the bedroom for fear of waking a violent partner by opening the door to the loo?

This is not horror fiction. These are some of the real, less life-threatening experiences mainly of women who have suffered the soul destroying terror of domestic abuse and publicly told their stories to support services.

There is an expected huge increase in calls to support organisations now that lockdown is over and victims will escape by bringing children to a crèche or summer camp or even just going to the shops unsupervised.

But the truth is that the issue is far more widespread than anyone knows because most victims are kept on too short a leash to make a phone call for help or alert anyone to their plight.

But many of us know or strongly suspect that there is abuse going on next door, down the road, even in our own family circle.

Report it. Because often the victims can’t.

ADAPT House – 061 – 412 354