There has been an increase in the number of calls to Women's Aid, the charity's chief executive has said.

Sarah Benson said that domestic abuse is always frightening to live with, but at the moment there is an increase in fear.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Ms Benson said that because of the Covid-19 pandemic people are being told to stay at home, however for those living with domestic violence and abuse, it is now the least safest place to be.

"People are being required to stay there under very constrained circumstances," she said.

"We have seen an increase in calls and the content has been very distressing.

"Domestic violence and abuse is always a frightening situation to be living with, but at the moment there's increased levels of anxiety and fear, and a sense of isolation and hopelessness.

"In some cases there isn't any option to get away to get a bit of breathing space."

Some services and organisations are seeing a drop in the number of calls, Ms Benson said, because it can be much harder to reach out when an abusive partner is in the home all the time.

"We are all still here," she said. "There are services there. We urge anyone who is worried about somebody, or if someone themselves feels at risk and they're in a position to make a call, make the first call to 999."

Speaking on the same programme, Bernie Kieran of Meath Women's Refuge said they are trying to be "more innovative and creative" in how they work with women.

She said that those living with domestic abuse get respite when their partner goes to work or the pub, but now they are in the home 24/7.

"There's no escape from an abusive partner at the moment," she said. "For us even to call a woman back is a challenge. We could be endangering her even more because he could be there beside her."

A major campaign across TV, radio and social media aimed at reaching out to victims of domestic abuse was launched earlier this month.

The campaign - a collaboration between the Government and frontline services - seeks to reassure victims of domestic abuse that services for them are still available, and that victims are being prioritised.

The Government has said that the 2km coronavirus travel restriction does not apply to victims of abuse.


HELPLINES

An Garda Síochána - 999 or 112
Women's Aid - 1800 341 900
Men's Aid Ireland - 01 554 3811
Male Domestic Abuse Advice Line - 1800 816 588
Rape Crisis Centre National Helpline - 1800 77 8888
Legal Aid Board Helpline - 1890 615 200 or 01 646 9600
Directory of local services - www.safeireland.ie

Information on services and supports for victims is also available on a new website - www.stillhere.ie