An outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic has been an increase in domestic abuse. Gardai reported a 25-30% increase in domestic attacks during the ‘lockdown’ period which was likely to have actually been much higher as government restrictions made it more difficult for women experiencing violence or coercive control to escape or report abusive situations.
With the easing of those restrictions domestic abuse support services are reporting a surge in requests for help. The public are becoming more aware of this through campaigns such as #StillHere, RTE Comic Relief and the Irish Women in Harmony video, all of which raised funds for Safe Ireland the national hub for 38 frontline domestic violence services throughout the country. However, while domestic abuse is something people would like to help with, they are unsure how they can best do that.
The CRiTiCALL initiative, launched in Dublin in early June, was set up to answer that gap between people’s desire to help and what domestic abuse support services actually need. That first pilot project was a partnership between 5 Volunteer Centres in Dublin, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Safe Ireland and has been very successful with 600 support packs distributed to women and families across Dublin and the surrounding counties.
CRiTiCALL Louth is now being launched by Louth Volunteer Centre who will be working in partnership with Scouting Ireland Louth and local domestic violence support services. The aim of CRiTiCALL in Louth is to support women and children in the area by facilitating the donation of critical goods to those that need it most. There are three ways to get involved:
- Donate: Purchase and donate much needed items for people accessing domestic abuse services
- Volunteer your home: volunteer a holiday or second property as a safe haven
- Write letters of courage and hope to those emerging from domestic abuse.
Gráinne Berrill, Manager of Louth Volunteer Centre says “Louth Volunteer Centre’s role has always been to connect those who want to help with those who need help. During COVID19 we were struck by the upsurge of volunteers wanting to help others but struggling to see how to provide that help. We are delighted to be part of this initiative allowing volunteers to provide practical help to those impacted by or escaping from domestic violence.”
The first CRiTiCALL donation day is being held in Drogheda and Dundalk this Saturday 11th July. Donors will need to register with Louth Volunteer Centre who will give a list of donation items that donors can select from and issue a time slot for making their donation to ensure that all COVID19 social distancing and contact tracing measures are followed. Volunteers from local Scout Troops will then manage the collection centre and distribution of donations to where local charities such as Drogheda Women’s and Children’s Refuge and Dundalk Women’s Aid feel they are most needed. The team would also be interested in donation/loans of storage crates to help with donation distribution.
Letters of hope are being collected by Kelley Bermingham of St. Patrick’s Cathedral for distribution to refuges locally and nationally. Letters can include pictures, poems and other creative expressions of support and may be included in a book to be published later this year to raise funds for Safe Ireland. Additional offers of support will be channelled to the appropriate recipients through a partnership of Volunteer Centres, Safe Ireland and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.