As national lockdown continues, a number of Ireland's domestic violence charities have reported a steep increase in calls to its services.
As self-isolation and social distancing become the new norm for families across Ireland, charities Aoibhneas and Women's Aid are concerned about the impact that the pandemic is having on some of the most vulnerable in society.
Acting as a frontline support service over the last number of weeks, Aoibhneas has experienced a notable rise in demand for helpline support and emergency accommodation.
This follows a statement from former family law solicitor and Green Party councillor Pauline O'Reilly who said that she has genuine fears that domestic violence could be set to soar in Ireland.
"No one should be forced to live with perpetrators of abuse", the Councillor for Galway City West says.
"Women, men, and children can be assured that courts are still sitting for these incidents and that emergency services continue to be available to them."
While the organisation is maintaining continuity of service and also following strict guidelines from the Department of Health and the HSE in relation to COVID-19, due to current restrictions, the service is unable to operate at full capacity.
The new Domestic Violence Act – which was updated and came into force on 2 January 2019 – set out a number of notable improvements to increase protection for victims under both civil and criminal law.
One such improvement is that the law will now help to protect victims against psychological and emotional abuse.
Also known as coercive control and/or gaslighting, this sort of abuse centres on psychological manipulation and abuse that can cause extreme distress or fear or violence.
Ireland is the third country in the world to make it an offence, following England and, more recently, Scotland.
"Violence is not just physical but crucially, under the Domestic Violence Act 2018, includes other forms of abuse such as emotional abuse or destruction of property," O'Reilly continued.
"There are a number of orders that can be sought, including emergency orders which last for a limited time until a longer-term order can be made.
"Those affected are still entitled to seek to have perpetrators barred from their home and that message needs to get out."
Other improvements under the new laws include safety orders for those who are in intimate relationships but not co-habiting, and emergency eight-day barring orders where there is an immediate risk of harm.
With the new act, Ireland has also moved a step closer to ratifying a Council of Europe Convention on combating domestic violence and violence against women.
If you have been affected by domestic abuse;
Women’s Aid operates a 24hr National Freephone Helpline: 1800 341 900
A feared increase in domestic violence has also been prioritised in the Garda’s planning for COVID-19, to contact their Crime Victim's Helpline call 116 006.
An interactive map is also now live here where you can find details of the local community service providers who are available to take your call.
If you are in immediate danger call An Garda Síochána on 999/112