The number of people who contacted the domestic violence support service Women's Aid increased by over 40% last year compared to 2019.

Women reported high levels of emotional, physical, sexual and economic abuse from their partners, in some cases as a direct result of Covid-19 restrictions.

Last year, 29,717 people contacted the domestic violence support service - up 43% compared to 2019.

95% of those who contacted the 24-hour national helpline were women, 5% were men.

The majority of contacts were made through Helpline calls, 1,460 used support conversations on the Women's Aid Instant Messaging Service and there were 830 replies to emails.

In 2020, the helpline team heard over 22,600 disclosures of abuse against women, 16,200 of which were disclosed as emotional abuse.

Just over 4,000 disclosed physical abuse, 1,500 said they were economically abused, there were 777 disclosures of sexual abuse.

Women said they had been raped, beaten and choked by abusive partners.

709 women said they were threatened with murder, 148 were abused while pregnant, 28 suffered miscarriage because of the abuse, 340 said they had been raped.

The level of fear, desperation and isolation experienced by thousands of women across the country last year, is evident in the report.

58% of callers were abused by a current male intimate partner. 23% were abused by an ex-male intimate partner.

An additional 11% of women were abused by another male who was not a partner or an ex.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Read the report in full here

1% of women were abused by a current female intimate partner and another 1% were abused by an ex-female partner with 6% of women disclosing that they had been abused by another female that was not a partner or ex-partner.

In 2020, 941 women who called Women's Aid said that they were members of a minority group.

Of those who provided this information - 93% were migrant women, 5% were women who were members of the Traveller community, 2% were women who are disabled.

There was a 90% increase in calls facilitated through a language other than English compared to 2019.

In total, there were 435 calls facilitated in 26 languages, 69% of the calls were facilitated in an EU language with the remainder facilitated through a non-EU language.

121 calls were facilitated through Polish, making it the second most common language used on the Helpline after English, followed by Portuguese and Arabic.

The report also notes that there were almost 6,000 disclosures of child abuse last year - up 24% on 2019 the majority of which was emotional abuse.

There were 318 reports of physical abuse and 50 reports of sexual abuse against children.

Over 17,753 referrals, information and/or advocacy was provided by Women's Aid to those who contacted the Helpline last year.

In her introduction to the report, CEO of Women's Aid Sarah Benson notes that an extremely concerning gap remains between the family law and the criminal justice system which she says is particularly acute for those subjected to criminal abuse by someone with whom they share children.

"During 2020 we received 515 disclosures of women being abused when facilitating a child access visit and 114 reports of children being abused during a child access visit", she said.

Women's Aid said it will commission independent research this year focused on the functioning of the family law system, particularly where matters of custody and access are adjudicated, to better inform and assist in the bridging of these gaps.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Ms Benson said the helpline team at Women's Aid reported a particularly acute year of distress for women in 2021 with many reporting a 'suffocating' feeling due to the public health restrictions in place.

She said that for women who were already subjected to abuse before the pandemic, the additional restrictions stripped away "the small tactics they used to try and get respite or manage the situation".

She said that "for many people that created an added layer of pressure".

Ms Benson said that women who worked at home reported being actively sabotaged and abused while trying to do their work, creating pressure and leaving them feeling no choice but to give up their jobs.

This has had "hugely long-reaching consequences" in terms of financial dependence and the emotional consequences, including stress and fear.

"We know this is just the tip of the iceberg and we know that there is a huge proportion of women suffering from domestic abuse and violence in silence still," she said.

Anyone affected can contact the Women's Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline on 1800 341 900.