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‘You are not alone’ – new campaign launched to support domestic abuse victims

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A “marked increase” in the amount of emergency phone-calls from victims of domestic abuse have been recorded by Gardaí in Clare during COVID-19 restrictions.

Twelve organisations including domestic and sexual violence services, An Garda Síochána, Clare County Council and the Courts service have come together to launch a new campaign to let women at risk of violence and abuse aware that a unified support system is in place in their community.

Now More Than Ever is the awareness campaign led by the Clare Local Area Network (CLAN) opposing violence against women. A purple heart is the symbol of the campaign and organisers have appeared for people to put it on their windows as a show of solidarity.

Chairperson of CLAN and Liaison Sergeant for Domestic Abuse, Sergeant Caitriona Holohan stated that monitoring domestic and sexual violence has been prioritised during the current pandemic. She said Gardaí in the county have witnessed “a marked increase” in emergency phone-calls from victims of domestic abuse including children exposed to such violence.

“Each incident reminds me of the seven women killed in County Clare since 1996, five of whom were murdered by a partner or ex-partner,” Sergeant Holohan noted. “From early in this crisis, we have made domestic and sexual violence a priority concern. We know from other countries who had experienced the pandemic before us that containment could be a serious danger for women living with coercive control and abuse. In collaboration with all of the CLAN agencies, we have helped provide protection and support for many women over the past few months and we will continue this, towards helping to break the cycle of abuse”.

This month saw the opening of the Clare Division Protected Services Unit focused on investigating sexual and physical violence. Chief Superintendent, Seán Colleran believed this move supports the investigating of crimes where children, women and vulnerable members society are victims to physical and sexual violence.

“We encourage all victims of crime to report the incident to the Gardaí. Our focus will always be on keeping people safe and we recognise the vulnerability of women who experience violence. All victims should take comfort from the fact that when reporting incidents involving violence they will be dealt with professionally and empathically by members of An Garda Síochána,” Colleran stated.

Manager of Clare Haven Services, Dr Siobhán O’Connor outlined that many women have been living with intolerable control and abuse since mid-March. “It is important that women know that we are here and that we can support them to be safe in their own homes, or give emergency refuge if this is what is needed,” she said. “Over the lock-down period, we saw a flurry of activity initially with a 100% increase of families in refuge in comparison to March last year. However, in April, as restrictions became tighter, this halved. Over the lockdown period we had a 20% increase on our helpline calls. Our services have been open and have been operating throughout this crisis and will continue to do so into the future”.

Women must support is there when they reach out, Elaine D’Alton of the Clare Women’s Network stressed. “We want women who may be unsafe in their homes, or who have experienced sexual assault or violence, to know that when they reach out, expert services are here to listen, to believe, to help, to care.” She flagged that there was also a worry that women who may have experienced sexual violence over the past few months in particular may not feel that they can report it. “Do not be afraid, do not think that you are to blame but do know that we are here to listen to you and to support you”.

Clare Women’s Network, Ennis Courts Services, The Citizens’ Information Services, Rape Crisis Midwest, An Garda Síochána, Clare Haven Domestic Violence Services, Clare Mental Health Services, Primary Health Social Work Services, the Probation Services, Money Advice and Budgeting Service, Clare County Council – Homeless Action Team and M.O.V.E – Men Overcoming Violent Emotions are the twelve groups involved in the campaign.

Organisations behind Now More Than Ever and details on how to reach them:

An Garda Síochána
An Garda Síochána is acutely aware of the 20% increase in domestic abuse during this pandemic. Anyone who may wish to report or discuss an incident of Domestic or Sexual Violence can contact 112/999 or their local Garda Station. For child abuse incidents contact the 24hr dedicated phone line for the reporting of child sexual abuse. The phone line number is 1800 555 222. This confidential free-phone line is manned on a 24-hour basis, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Clare Haven Services
Clare Haven Services is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week service. Due to restrictions we have changed how we do this work and now use phone, email and text to ensure women & children are made safe from Domestic Abuse. Our work continues to include outreach to all areas in the county, court accompaniment, emotional support, refuge and the 24 hour help-line 065 6822435 Contact us at any time.  

Rape Crisis Midwest
RCM (Rape Crisis Midwest) remains open to new and existing clients across County Clare and is a confidential counselling and support service for women and men who have survived any form of sexual violence including childhood sexual abuse, rape or assault. Freephone 1800311511 Mobile 086 6614481 email: verena.tarpey@rapecrisis.ie www.facebook.com/rapecrisismidwest

Clare Women’s Network
Staff are working remotely Monday to Thursday and are available to chat and give telephone support.  Elaine or Yvie can be reached in the following ways: Phone: 085-1554800 / 0838924700. Email: nccwnclarewomen@gmail.com.

Primary Care Social Work Services
Primary Care consists of the health or social care services that you can find in your community, outside of hospital. A primary care team is made up of GP, PHN, Physio, OT, SLT, Home-help Services and Social work. They provide a single point of contact to the health system in the community. People can self- refer/ be referred to the service with their consent by contacting the primary care office in St Joseph’s Hospital Ennis at 065-6863808.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service
Clare MABS (Money Advice and Budgeting Service) is a free and confidential state funded charity offering advice on day to day budgeting and money management, as well as assisting people in financial difficulties with credit cards, loans, mortgages and utility bills. Contact the office in Ennis on 0761 072 430 or email ennis@mabs.ie.

Public Office at Ennis Courthouse
Whilst courts are running as scheduled with numbers limited, the Public Office at Ennis Courthouse is currently closed. However, if a woman would like to discuss their situation or seek an emergency order they can contact the office at 065 6867500 or email Ennis Court Office at courts.ie.  A woman can also access this service via Clare Haven Services.

Citizens Information Centre
Citizens Information staff are continuing to deliver free and confidential information and advice on people’s rights and entitlements. There are no face-to-face consultations at present. Clare Citizens Information by Phone lines are open Monday to Friday 9.30am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm. Contact Anne Marie O‘Reilly | Information Officer – Ennis CIC | North Munster Citizens Information Service CLG Telephone 0761 07 5260 (Reception)Email: annemarie.oreilly@citinfo.ie.
 
Clare Mental Health Services
These services are operating but in a different way. Emergency referrals and routine appointments are ongoing but via telephone and/or video consultations where possible. Face to face appointments are provided when deemed necessary. There is also a requirement to stagger appointments so the response particularly for routine appointments are not as timely. The CLAN representative contact number: 065 6863710. A link to contact numbers for the various mental health services can be found at the following site – https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/1/lho/clare/mental-health-services/

Probation Services
The Probation Services in County Clare are closed but would like to reassure the public that calls will be returned and clients are continuing to engage with their Probation Officers during Covid 19. Contact: www.probation.ie or +353(0)658645952

Clare County Council – Homeless Action Team
The Homeless Action Team provide support and advice to people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness to residents of County Clare. Whilst the office is currently closed, this service can be accessed by calling 065 6846291 or emailing hat@clarecoco.ie. 

M.O.V.E. (Men Overcoming Violent Emotions)
MOVE continues to offer support to current or ex partners of individuals who are on their programme or were on their programme in the past. This Partner Contact Support Service is a free and confidential service. If men are worried about their own behavior they can contact MOVE on 086 4149613 or they can email move@moveireleand.ie. 

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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