Domestic abuse (DA) is is a public health concern! It can affect all people,all genders, all ages.
Research shows that around 15% of women and 6% of men in Ireland have experienced severe domestic violence and that most women who were intentionally killed in Ireland were killed by a current or former intimate partner. Evidence suggests in Ireland domestic violence has risen since the outbreak of COVID-19!
In Ireland, organizations such as Women’s Aid report an increase in calls to their helplines and the Gardaí reported a 25% increase in domestic violence calls compared to pre lockdown. This is seen in other countries around the world.
Such as China: Reports of domestic violence to police in Hubei tripled in February 2020 compared to February 2019
France: Reports of domestic violence up 30% following lock down
United Kingdom: Domestic violence murders double in March/April 2020 compared to March/April 2019
Most victims of domestic homicide are women; on average, two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week in the United Kingdom.
Hopefully this article highlights this global problem inorder that we can identify and support victims of Domestic Abuse (DA).
BE AWARE of those at risk
The definition of Domestic abuse is defined as any abusive, coercive, or controlling behavior between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members.
It can be physical, sexual, emotional or psychological, verbal,or even financial abuse. and can occur to anyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or even geographic location.
Those most at risk are-
Women who are pregnant or new mothers
People with substance abuse problems
People with mental ill health
Individuals with a disability
People who are isolated like the elderly
People who have previously experienced DA or sexual assault
Usually those that have been subjected to DA find it hard to disclose this to anyone due to a number of reasons-
fear that the abuse may worsen
loss of self-confidence
shame or embarrassment
the victim may still love their partner
fear that children may be taken away or suffer same abuse
concern that they will not be believed or pointless to report abuse
Watch out for symptoms
According to Women’s Aid, one in seven children and young people aged less than 18 years will be affected by DA at some point in their lives. Abuse on a child varies and could have both short- and long-term cognitive, behavioural, and emotional effects; children who are themselves the victims of DA may suffer direct physical consequences, including injuries or even death. Some children may self blame for the abuse.
Their responses may experience feelings of anger, guilt, insecurity, loneliness, or even fear, and may even develop apathetic feelings towards the abusive and the victim parent. Children who witness DA may exhibit psychological symptoms such as aggression, anxiety, depression, and withdrawal; or they may report physical symptoms such as bed-wetting or recurrent stomach ache.
They may even abuse drugs or alcohol, and have problems at school and exhibit anti social behaviour .
‘The workplace can be a lifeline for survivors of domestic abuse as it offers an opportunity to seek help’
An employee may have
changes in behaviour.
frequent lateness or unexplained absence
poor work ethos
As more and more people work from home this may be again alot harder to detect.
The impact of COVID-19
The number of reported cases of DA has increased since lockdown began in March 2020,as a result of more people and families being forced to stay indoors with their abusers. Social restrictions and stay-at-home can exacerbate mental illness and drug and alcholol abuse.
SafeLives show that victims of DA experience abuse for an average of 3 years before getting help and visit their GP an average of 4.3 times during this time. Some victims may take even longer if culturally and financially dependant. GP/friends are often have a good relationship with a non- abuser which may increases the chance of the victim disclosing abuse.
The WAST-short screening tool
The Woman Abuse Screening Tool (WAST)-short was developed in Canada and is used by family doctors to identify and assess women who are being subjected to emotional and/or physical abuse by their partner
As a GP we should make our practice as a "DA-aware" through social media such as the surgery website, Twitter, and by displaying posters in waiting areas and/or toilets—this will raise awareness .This may open up the topic of discussion with patients and even practice staff.
Resources for patients-
Glen.ie 01 672 8650
LGBT support call 1890 929 539
Saoirse Domestic Violence services- 463 0000
Cari Foundation- (01) 830 8529
For children and young people-
.Childline: Free Text 50101 Free Phone-180066 66 66
If we open our eyes to DA, it may also raise awareness among perpetrators of DA, who may accept support.