Restrictions brought in to slow the spread of Covid-19 "very seriously exacerbated experiences" for those living with domestic abuse, according to the chief executive of Women's Aid.

There was a 43% increase in responses by the Women's Aid's 24-hour helpline between March and June, compared to the same period last year.

Speaking on RTÉs Morning Ireland, Sarah Benson said calls reported physical abuse, very acute emotional coercive controlling abuse, economic abuse and sexual abuse.

She said the virus itself was also "weaponised" and women with underlying problems reported their partners coughing on them.

While Women's Aid always hears of acute distress, she said it escalated enormously during lockdown.

She said there was an increase of calls "in the dead of night" and women were "ingenious" in their efforts to reach out, with many calling from their car or going to the bathroom and turning on the shower.

She said that although women did reach out, being able to go further - for example accessing the courts or getting out of the house was very difficult - and a lot of women said they would "ride it out" because of these challenges.

Ms Benson said refuges had done extraordinary things to try and be flexible during the lockdown, but many of them are communal living situations and the capacity was reduced by about 25%.

She said the cracks in services and responses were made very evident as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

Ms Benson called for increased resources and a follow through on commitments that were made in the Programme for Government to conduct an audit to see how the State's response can be more coordinated.

Meanwhile the founder of Stop Domestic Violence Ireland has called for the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, to immediately implement stronger legislation to criminalise domestic violence.

Minister McEntee should bring in an emergency order to give gardaí more powers of arrest and charge, Priscilla Grainger said on RTÉ's Today with Sarah McInereny.

She said that the lockdown had seen men, women and children suffering at the hands of their abusers. 


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 -

Information on services and supports for victims is also available on a new website -