Not Always Safety in Numbers for Women in 2010
Women and children looking for safety could not be accommodated on over 3,000 occasions in 2010 because domestic violence refuges were either full or unavailable in an area – over 700 occasions more or a massive 38% increase on 2009 figures.
Throughout the year, 7,235 women received support from domestic violence services. Of these, 1,545 women along with 2,355 children lived in refuge for various periods of time and women made an average of over 100 calls a day – 38,629 calls in total – to all helplines throughout the country.
Releasing its National Statistics on Domestic Violence 2010, Safe Ireland said that the latest figures proved that existing services had reached tipping point. Safe Ireland is the national organisation for 39 frontline domestic violence services.
The 2010 statistics show a levelling off in overall numbers of women and children receiving support from domestic violence services since 2009 (there was a 1% increase from 7,171 to 7,235 women). However, the real picture is that a continuing trend upwards is now spilling into an emergency accommodation crisis and a spike in distressed telephone calls, explained Sharon O’Halloran, SAFE Ireland Director.
“The devil is in the detail,” she said. “The real pressure points are being seen in the number of times women cannot be accommodated immediately. These women and their children are the tragic fall out of Ireland’s abject and consistent failure to meet European minimum requirements for refuge.”
“When a woman leaves her house with her children, often in the middle of the night, she should expect to be accommodated safely behind the first door she knocks on. While accommodation is found for all women who come to a refuge, if it is not immediately available, it only prolongs the stress and anxiety of the situation.”
Ireland has just one third of the refuge capacity recommended by the Council of Europe. With budget cutbacks, essential new refuges are not opening and existing refuges are finding it more difficult to maintain their services.
“The other important issue is that refuge accommodation is not just about getting a roof over your head,” O’Halloran continued. “Our refuge and support services are staffed by professionals who have over 30 years experience in providing for the physical, mental and emotional needs of women and children leaving abuse.”
O’Halloran also said that women and children were feeling the brunt of some statutory agency policies that were often about saving money over people’s needs. In order to move on from refuge, for example, she said, women rely on agencies dealing with a range of issues from housing to education or legal issues. The focus on savings means that women are often being left in limbo, unable to move on or rebuild their lives.