Domestic Violence up 17% over lockdown – ADAPT advise students on how to recognise Coercive Control

New figures released in the An Garda Síochána annual report 2020 show a 17% increase of domestic violence calls since 2019, and approximately 43,500 calls to respond to domestic abuse.

Carrie Barrett, training and development officer at ADAPT Domestic Abuse Services Limerick, spoke to Limerick Voice about coercive control in the hopes of creating awareness in students.

Ms. Barrett said there was an increase in phone calls regarding coercive control and emotional abuse during lockdown. She went on to say that many callers were trying to determine “am I in an abusive relationship or are things just hard for us right now?”

“The overriding key point is, are you afraid? Are there provisions to your relationship? If there’s always an ‘or else’. The ‘or else’ is not ‘or I’ll hit you’ – it can be ‘or else I’ll share those pictures of you, won’t drive you to college, tell your friends this, won’t give you money.’ Basically, that you’re going to suffer if you don’t do what they want.”

Coercive control became a criminal offence in Ireland in January 2019 and is defined as “a persistent and deliberate pattern of an abuser over a prolonged period of time, designed to achieve obedience and create fear.” This can be through threats, humiliation and intimidation all used to harm, punish, or frighten. It’s not always visible, and victims of coercive control often are unaware that they are being abused.

“We’re talking financial, emotion, and mental abuse,” Ms. Barrett continued. “Elements of control – that real sense of owning and overpowering another human being. In order to coerce somebody, it’s important to isolate them from someone that could help or support them, so the person is closed off and easier to be manipulated.”

Domestic abuse data: 2019 vs 2020

Gaslighting is a tool predominantly used to coerce and is more difficult to recognise; lies, manipulation, mind games, creating confusion, and instilling a sense of mistrust in others and the world. This can result in the victim adapting a negative sense of self and believing they are not worthy of love or kindness and can have a huge impact on a person’s emotional well-being. More noticeable signs include shouting, banging doors or smashing things.

Red flags that are prevalent at the beginning of relationships are instances where one is being talked out of meeting friends, a partner showing up unexpectedly when they’re out with friends or coming up with problems or reasons for why they should not return to their family home.

Learning about coercive control may lead you to question a friend or family member’s relationships. Ms. Barrett advises that it is crucial to provide a safe, non-judgmental, and compassionate environment before reaching into other relationships.

“It’s easy to just acknowledge somebody (and say) ‘you don’t seem yourself’ or ‘are you okay?’ – not ‘If that was me, I’d finish it’ or ‘if that was me, I’d do this’ because we don’t know. We shouldn’t push our ideals that they have to leave immediately. You don’t have to go any further than making a phone call to ADAPT for yourself, or a friend, just to find out what the next steps are.”

If you’re affected by any of the issues raised, or need support or assistance, there are a range of services available at ADAPT Domestic Abuse Services. They offer advice and information on their 24/7 helpline, and the ADAPT website has a relationship quiz if you are questioning the nature of your relationship, plus further information and contact points. You can help raise awareness by following their social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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