The number of women who “dropped in” to a city based domestic violence service without a prior appointment seeking information and support, was up by almost 40 per cent last year, according to new figures, released this week.
Statistics revealed by COPE Galway Waterside House Domestic Violence services highlight a significant increase in the number of women accessing support from the organisation.
A total of 392 women experiencing domestic violence accessed its services and it responded to more than 1,200 crisis calls last year.
This reflected a 39 per cent increase in drop-in visits to the service whereby women called to the door unannounced seeking support and information regarding their situations.
“These visits are usually of a crisis nature with women having reached a point where they no longer feel able to handle an abusive situation on their own,” says Wendy Heuston, the manager of the facility.
“They recognise that they need to tell someone what is happening within their relationship. Usually what they are seeking from the service is emotional support and information on their options.”
A further 215 women with 359 children were unable to be accommodated at the refuge due to lack of space. They were referred elsewhere.
Waterside House provides refuge accommodation, one-to-one and telephone support, information on options, court accompaniment, advocacy, support with immigration issues, therapeutic play and play therapy for children who are experiencing domestic violence. An outreach service is provided for women in the county who are unable to travel to the city.
Some 45 per cent of women accessing this service were from County Galway with 50 per cent coming from the main towns of Ballinasloe, Tuam, Athenry, Headford and Loughrea. The remainder were from different areas in the county.
Ms Heuston says women in rural areas who are experiencing abuse may be isolated from services and unable to travel to Galway for regular appointments.
“While the increase in referrals is a very real concern it is a positive that women feel able to access the service directly in this manner. Waterside House will continue to support women, with and without children, who are experiencing domestic violence and will continue to raise awareness of the issue and campaign for change where necessary.”
Domestic violence is a serious issue, she says, with research consistently showing that one in five women will experience abuse within an intimate relationship over their lifetime.
She welcomes leglislative improvements, such as a widening of the criteria for safety orders. However, she says that abuse which occurs within a dating relationship is not covered and should be addressed.
“Unfortunately the area of harassment through social media is a new tool used by perpetrators of domestic abuse and women should be vigilant about who they share their online information with.”
For further information on domestic violence and/or support contact (091) 565985.