October 5, 2020:

One third (32%) of Adults report abuse during lifetime 

Rise in cyber abuse during pandemic

12% of adults have experienced abuse since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, while 32% of adults report ever experiencing abuse or neglect.

The findings were launched today as part of a public awareness campaign being led by Safeguarding Ireland to encourage all adults, particularly those who are vulnerable, to safeguard during the pandemic period.

The RED C research, carried out on a representative sample of 1,000 adults nationwide, found a shift in the type of abuse people experienced during the pandemic period, with cyber abuse (internet, social media, online) becoming more common.

Read the full RED C research here.

The survey asked people if they had experienced abuse including cyber, emotional, financial, physical, psychological or sexual abuse; or neglect by another person or institution. 12% reported an experience in the past six months and 20% prior to then.

Women (especially younger women) were more likely to have ever experienced abuse than men. There was also a higher incidence amongst lower social class groups, the unemployed and those that are widowed / divorced / separated.

Among those who had experienced abuse, emotional and psychological (threatening / coercive control or undue influence) were the most common forms both before and during the pandemic.

However, cyber abuse (internet / social media / online) was the third most common form during the pandemic compared to the fifth most common prior to March, becoming higher reported than physical or sexual abuse in the recent period.

Safeguarding Ireland Chairperson Patricia Rickard-Clarke said the research shows both the alarming incidence of abuse during the pandemic and the changing nature of abuse.

“The COVID-19 pandemic brings challenges for us all and raises increased risks of abuse. Safeguarding Ireland’s message, particularly for vulnerable adults, is to keep your independence and keep making your own decisions as much as you can while keeping safe. Ask for help when you want it and only from trusted people.

“From services we have heard that scams and coercion online have increased during the pandemic and this RED C research confirms that. We need to be very aware of, and not engage with, online and digital abuses such as financial smishing, fake friends and cyber bullying.”

“Furthermore, the continued high prevalence of emotional and psychological abuse during COVID-19, raises concerns for many people living in restricted domestic settings. The Domestic Violence Act should be extended so that it is not limited to persons who are in intimate relationship, but includes the coercive control by another regardless of the relationship.”

In the research 25% of adults said that COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions had made them more vulnerable to abuse – and 87% agreed that people who are more isolated (such as in rural areas) in particular faced an increased risk.

“We need to greatly speed up the enactment of adult safeguarding legislation, strengthen the powers of the HSE National Safeguarding Office Teams, and work towards establishing a National Safeguarding Authority to ensure strong reporting, enforcement and conviction for all forms of abuse,” Ms Rickard-Clarke concluded.

Safeguarding means living safely, free from abuse or neglect. It means our choices, particularly if we are vulnerable, are clearly heard and respected.

More information, including the RED C research and public awareness materials, can be viewed at www.safeguardingireland.org.

Further Information

Ronan Cavanagh, Safeguarding Ireland / Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.

Safeguarding Ireland

Safeguarding Ireland promotes safeguarding of vulnerable adults to protect them from was all forms of abuse by persons, organisations and institutions and to develop a national plan for promoting their welfare.