No Going Back

We are setting out our evidence-based vision for a transformative strategy and infrastructure for DSGBV in Ireland.

We have been clear from the very beginning of this pandemic that Covid-19 did not cause domestic and sexual violence. It has exposed it.

Exposure

We have also been clear that this epidemic, and the quite phenomenal outpouring of communal empathy for those living with control and abuse that we have seen, has also fully revealed the inadequate, siloed and poorly resourced way in which we are responding to coercive control generally, and domestic violence specifically.

Over this past year, when we have discussed and named the intense stresses of this crisis period and the inadequate response structure with our frontline member services, the phrase “No Going Back” consistently came up as the expression which embodied what we all want to come out of this crisis.

Opportunity

Covid-19 has proven to be a threat, but also an opportunity, for the DSGBV sector – with all the burdens that implies.

Our new discussion paper sets out our vision for a transformative infrastructure and strategy to respond to the needs of survivors – primarily women and children. We hope that it will support the work that is currently underway to review extant DSGBV infrastructures. We also hope that it can feed into the development of the new third national strategy for DSGBV.

Four key recommendations

Safe Ireland has four key recommendations that will transform the way we respond to DSGBV in this country. We need:

  • A dedicated Minister and Ministry;
  • Integrated and survivor focused policy and services;
  • Sustainable and thriving specialist local services;
  • A world-leading intervention and prevention strategy.

Hardwired to Journeys

What makes this discussion paper unique and completely hardwired to the complex and holistic needs of women and children is that it pivots around the journeys that they take as they move from entrapment to safety and freedom. The paper also begins to set out some of our thinking on the need for more nuanced conceptualisations and language about DSGBV.

We undertook a series of scoping exercises, based on our years of experience and collaboration with our 39 service members, to document the journey of women and children.

Out of this we have developed two separate journey maps, one of which documents the Journey of a Woman and the second the Journey of a Child.

Journey of a woman from DSGBV to independent living

Journey of a woman from DSGBV to independent living

Journey of a child from DSGBV to independent living

Journey of a child from DSGBV to independent living

Time to think

We have developed a build-up map, or animation, of the Journey of a Woman so that you can take the time to contemplate the complicated, non-linear, stop and start, meandering and often prolonged journeys that women can take particularly.

We hope these maps will throw light on the necessity for an always present, multi-disciplinary response to support women and children on their journeys out of abuse.

What We’re Doing Isn’t Working

Unfortunately, however, we are responding to these non-linear, complicated and meandering journeys with a siloed approach – without leadership, without vital all of government connection, as you can see here.

Current National Framework

There is a Better Way

The lives of survivors can be transformed by a systemic change to policy, practice and commissioning that promotes early intervention and reduces the prevalence, impact and tolerance of DSGBV at all levels. We have set out what an integrated structure of response might look like, cascading from leadership at political level, through national and regional authorities to local service level.

Proposed National Framework

And this in turn is connected to the development of a fit for purpose, integrated regional service delivery plan.

Regional Integrated Structure and Delivery

A new model must be built which meets the journey and needs of survivors, which meets the demands of best- practice, transparency and genuine social change.

What we have set out here in our new discussion paper illustrates clearly that there can be no going back.

View and Download: No Going Back Discussion Paper

No Going Back Discussion Paper – March 2021

Download PDF of ‘No Going Back Discussion Paper’

 

Safe Ireland recognises mothers living with coercion – past and present – with creative campaign this Mothers’ Day

Children the invisible victims in the shadow pandemic of domestic abuse

Safe Ireland said that the high numbers of children consistently accessing its members services with their mothers throughout 2020 must be highlighted, saying that they are the “invisible victims” of the pandemic.

Safe Ireland’s latest Tracking the Shadow Pandemic – Lockdown 2 report shows that, on average, 550 children a month received support from a dedicated domestic violence service over the four month period from September to December 2020.  Over the first six months of the pandemic, from March to September, an average of 411 children accessed services each month.

Safe Ireland is the national domestic violence agency working with 39 domestic violence services across the country.

Of the children who accessed services in the latter part of the year, at least 486 of them were ‘new’ children – that is children who had never accessed a service before with their mothers.

The report also shows that at least 265 children stayed in a range of domestic violence accommodation (refuge, safe homes and supported housing) every month between September and December. Over this period, 167 women on average every month were staying in refuge, safe and supported housing.  More children than women are consistently staying in domestic violence accommodation.

“We are extremely concerned that children living with domestic violence are suffering more than ever as this lockdown continues,” said Mary McDermott, CEO of Safe Ireland. “They are the invisible victims of this shadow pandemic of violence and abuse, and must be identified as victims in their own right. Mothers are extremely worried and stressed about their welfare and constantly ask for extra therapeutic supports for them. This is even more critical to provide now that schools remain closed since before Christmas.”

“However, there seems to be little additional funding or consideration for the specialist supports and therapeutic services that are needed by children,” she said. “Children are not just bystanders or accessories to violence, they are direct victims of abuse and control. Research tells us clearly that coercive control has the same debilitating impact on children as it does on their mothers.”

Of particular concern, Safe Ireland said, is the high numbers of children who accessed a range of specialist support services in the month of December, and in the run-up to Christmas. While the numbers of women accessing services reduced in December, the number of children being supported by domestic violence services rose to 604, the highest point in the Covid year.

Notes to editors

Tracking the Shadow Pandemic – Lockdown 2 is based on data collected monthly by 30 domestic violence services. Safe Ireland works with 39 services in total. However, not all services could submit data every month of the period in question. The final report relies on consistent data only.

See also the Safe Ireland release outlining the overall statistics on women and children seeking support from domestic violence services from domestic violence services from September to December 2020.

For more information contact:
Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-2935207

Further increases in women and children contacting a domestic violence service during the second lockdown of 2020

On average, at least 2,018 women and 550 children received support from a domestic violence service each month from September to December 2020, according to Safe Ireland’s second Tracking the Shadow Pandemic – Lockdown 2 report, published today.

November was the busiest month of the four-month period. When Ireland was at the height of its second Level 5 lockdown, over 2,180 women and 602 children received support from a dedicated domestic violence service. Safe Ireland is the national social change agency working with 39 member services across the country.

Over 2,445 new women and 486 new children contacted a domestic violence service for the very first time in these four months. This equates to 611 new women and 122 new children every month, or 20 new women and 4 children every day, who had, as far as is known, never contacted a service before.

The statistics for the latter part of 2020 were higher generally than those reported over the first six months of the pandemic. The first Safe Ireland Tracking the Shadow Pandemic report, which covered the six month period between March and August 2020, showed that at least 1,970 women and 411 children received support each month.

Helpline calls were also up on average over the second part of the year. Domestic violence services answered 23,336 helpline calls over the period, an average of 191 calls a day, up slightly from 184 calls a day in the first six months of the pandemic. November was the busiest month of the period, with 6,409 calls answered – that’s 213 a day or nearly 9 calls every hour.

Mary McDermott, CEO of Safe Ireland, said that even in an extraordinary time of crisis, these numbers were shocking. Adequate resources and creative solutions were needed to respond to the needs of women but also the needs of the frontline emergency professionals responding to them, she said.

“Since last March, our 39 frontline-service member organisations have been working under enormous pressure to respond to those fleeing domestic abuse”, she said. “This frontline work cannot stop. It can take no breaks. From these figures we can see that somewhere, every day, in this small country, there is a woman, most often with children, looking to escape abuse and violence.”

“Our message to survivors remains clear and steadfast. You do not have to live in an oppressive home. You do not have to endure abuse and control. There is professional support available in your community,” she continued.

“However, the dedicated professionals who provide the vital supports and services needed by women and children in their communities must also be adequately resourced. At the moment, and as a legacy going back many years, there are significant disparities between those working in DSGBV services and other social care settings. Parity and respect must be afforded DV frontline workers.”

She said that Safe Ireland continues to welcome the Government’s national prioritisation of domestic violence during the Covid crisis. But it was essential, she said, that a new, integrated National Services Development plan be put in place as a cornerstone of the forthcoming third National Strategy on domestic violence. Crucially, she said, multi-annual funding must be established to enable proper planning and service development. Ill-conceived technocratic processes hamper the urgent work of response and prevention of domestic violence.

On average 167 women and 265 children stayed in a range of domestic violence accommodation (range of refuge, safe homes and supported housing) each month between September and December. This is slightly down on those in accommodation over the first six months. In total, 808 requests for refuge could not be met in the four months because there was no space. This equates to 7 requests per day on average, slightly down on the first six months. In October, however, 306 requests for refuge could not be met, the highest for the tracked months of 2020.

Tracking the Shadow Pandemic 2 – September to December 2020

  • On average, 2018 women and 550 children received support from a domestic violence service every month from September to December 2020.
  • 2,445 new women and 496 new children accessed services for the first time.
  • 23,336 helpline calls were answered, an average of 191 calls a day.
  • November was the busiest month for women (2,180) and December for children (604).
  • 167 women and 265 children stayed in a range of domestic violence accommodation.
  • 808 requests for refuge could not be met due to lack of space.
  • Services held 18,892 phone support sessions, 166 video support sessions and 8,783 in-person support sessions.

Notes to editors

The report is based on data collected monthly from 30 domestic violence member services (including Women’s Aid which runs the national helpline. The first Tracking the Shadow Pandemic report was based on data from 32 member services. Safe Ireland has 39 member services in total. However, not all could submit data every month. The final report relies on consistent data.

For comparison – Tracking the Shadow Pandemic 1 – March to August 2020 (6 months)

  • 3,450 women and 589 children contacted a domestic violence service for the first time.
  • On average 1,970 women and 411 children received support from a domestic violence service every month.
  • 33,941 helpline calls were answered – an average of 184 calls every day.
  • Services held 33,624 phone support sessions, 575 video support sessions and 8,143 in-person support sessions.
  • Services received a 2,260 helpline emails, 3,452 texts and 1,047 online chat messages.

On average 191 women and 288 children were in domestic violence accommodation each month. 1,351 requests for refuge could not be met due to lack of space.

For more information contact:
Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-2935207

Woman and Child – The most far reaching, creative and inspiring campaign we’ve ever run!

2,275,513 impressions. In just two weeks.

That’s the reach achieved by with our amazing and powerful 1 minute film Woman and Child, made by film maker Marion Bergin, and which was at the heart of our Nollaig na mBan campaign, launched on January 6th 2021.

So impressions are one thing – they give us an idea about how many times a post about our campaign appeared in somebody’s feed. But, engagement is something completely different. In total, there were over 200,000 video views across its different cutdown formats – 1 minute, 30 seconds and 10 seconds. And of those views, there was a massive 133,870 video completions.

One of our core aims for this campaign was to raise awareness about coercive control. The film, in just 60 seconds, and less, depicting the shrinking and micro-managed world of a woman and child living with control and abuse. We hope that at least 133,870 more people now know a little more about this insidious crime.

But the film was just one half of the campaign. Its darkness was complemented with a truly standout Herstory lightshow featuring images that incapsulated the sovereignty, strength, resilience, diversity and autonomy of women. Every day for two weeks, these amazing images were shared, liked, re-tweeted thousands of times, helping to spread the reach of the campaign even further.

On January 6th itself, in freezing temperatures, a small little band of socially distanced women and men met in O’Connell Street to light up the GPO first. We then moved on to Christchurch Cathedral where the Archbishop and Dean came out to meet us. After that it was down to the former Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott Street before heading out to Clontarf to illuminate a domestic house. It was perhaps the illumination on the ordinary house that was most haunting and evocative. It was a reminder that control, abuse and inequality happens in our midst, on our roads, in our villages and neighbourhoods. Until it is exposed here – illuminated here – it will continue to thrive, in the shadows, in the silence. But, hopefully with this campaign, we have raised consciousness about this.

We are extremely grateful to all of the amazing artists and creatives who worked with us to make this campaign such a success – the Herstory movement, Marion Bergin and Lisa Turnbull of The Nice Things, photographers and artists Ellen McDermott, Myriam Riand and Áine O’Brien, Dodeca for the illuminations and Adrian O’Connell for his videography.

See the full campaign page here

Substantial sentence for coercive control recognises the seriousness of the crime

Case and sentence also highlights complexity of ‘coerced collusion’ and the need to support vulnerable witnesses.

Safe Ireland said the “substantial” sentence handed down today to a man convicted of coercive control and multiple assaults on his former partner was an appropriate recognition of the seriousness and sustained nature of the crime of domestic abuse.

The man, named as Daniel Kane from Scariff House, Waterville Terrace in Blanchardstown, received a 12 and a half year sentence with two and a half years suspended.

Mary McDermott, CEO, said that Mr Kane’s conviction and the length of sentence, acknowledged the severity of the crime and its life-denying impact on victims. The deep drivers of these behaviours rest on toxic gender expectations and entitlements, evidenced in this case by the fact that the perpetrator showed no remorse or sense of profound wrong-doing, she said.

“The crime of coercive control enables us to understand the age-old problem of ‘collusion’ and entrapment in cycles of domestic violence,” she said. “We can now see that this ‘collusion’ is an effect, not a symptom of, sustained abuse, making victims vulnerable witnesses and in need of specialist supports. In this case, the abuser admitted that he had tried to get the victim to withdraw her statements and prevent his trial going ahead.

She said that this type of coerced collusion, which too often results in cases being dropped by women, and sometimes used against women themselves in relation to their children, was central to understanding the highly gendered patterns of coercive control.

“This sentence is a shot across the bow to all abusers,” she continued. “It tells them very clearly that they can no longer control, stalk, assault, isolate or degrade a woman with impunity. What was once secret and privatised, is now public. In Ireland, the coercion and assault of any human being is a crime. Living in a ‘lockdown time’ we are gaining ever greater understandings of these household traumas and imprisonment.”

“We believe it also sends a strong message to women who are experiencing abuse and control, to those around them, and to their communities, to speak openly. You do not have to live in an oppressive household. We are learning to name these situations accurately. You will be supported and believed. Our judicial system recognises this crime as an extremely serious threat to the life and well-being of women.”

She commended the woman for her courage in pursuing this case, despite coercion to drop charges. She trusted that the justice system would fully recognise the horror she has lived through, which was upheld. She also commended An Garda Siochana for their investigative work in ensuring robust evidence so that this case could be brought forward by the DPP.

She also said that it was vital that state agencies like An Garda Síochána had ongoing independent capacity to intervene proactively in domestic abuse situations, as has been happening through Covid-19 with Operation Faoiseamh.

For more information contact:  Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-2935207

Safe Ireland commends bravery of survivors

Safe Ireland commends the bravery of the survivors of Mother & Baby Homes, their families, and activists, who campaigned to name the systemic abuse of women, and their children, by State and Church, in the face of prolonged institutional resistance.

 

It said that the report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is a painful exposition of the effects of the endemic misogyny and wilful ignorance which led to the incarceration of so many.

 

“It is extremely difficult to confront the horrors detailed in this report,” said Mary McDermott, CEO of Safe Ireland. “But we must do so. All state and religious institutions created and maintained this punitive network. A frank apology is a direct acknowledgement of this, as is recompense, access to information and life-long support. This completely unnecessary suffering is a trauma in Irish society. But we are brave enough to understand it at a deep level, heal it and never repeat it.”

 

“We are learning now to identify insidious patterns of coercion wherever they occur. Whether the pregnancies of the women and girls in these Mother and Baby Homes arose from ignorance, open loving innocence, or outright violation, they all created panic and shunning within families and communities,” she continued.

 

“Gender rules, created and enforced by State, Church and commercial interests, grounded this system. They devastated individuals, families and communities at that time and do so now. We unfortunately continue to confront this every day in our work with survivors of domestic violence. But this too can be changed.”

Featured Image Credits:

Original image titled ‘Underwater’ by Ellen McDermott

Illumination: Dodeca and Herstory

 

Safe Ireland urges all-party support for Bill to provide paid leave for domestic violence survivors

Private Members Bill at second stage in the Dáil this evening

Safe Ireland today welcomes the presentation (second stage) of the new Organisation of Working Time (Domestic Violence Leave) Bill 2020 to the Dáil this evening and urges deputies from across the house to support the Bill without any undue delay.

The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 to create a statutory entitlement to paid leave for employees as a consequence of domestic violence. The Private Members’ Bill is being presented by Sinn Fein deputies Louise O’Reilly and Mary Lou McDonald. It was first introduced on November 17th. The vote on the second stage will take place tomorrow

Safe Ireland, which is the national agency working with 39 domestic violence member services, said that the amendment Bill is another vital step towards the wrap-around statutory infrastructure that survivors of domestic violence need to stay safe in their own homes and to help navigate their way from violence and control. Earlier this year the government introduced protocols to assist survivors of domestic violence to access rent allowance.

“We welcome this Bill and are supporting it,” said Mary McDermott, Co-CEO of Safe Ireland. “We are also urging deputies from all parties to attend the debate this evening and to vote in favour of its passage without any undue delay. Every day and week that this is delayed puts women and children at greater risk of poverty, income and job insecurity and of remaining trapped with their abusers.”

“Work is a vital support of income and a place of sanctuary for many survivors,” she continued. “The risk of losing that income, that sanctuary and even ultimately the job, is huge if a woman has to take time off because of trauma or injuries as a result of domestic violence – an issue perhaps that she feels she can’t even talk about openly with her employers at the moment. In addition, a higher proportion of women in Ireland have part-time or precarious work contracts, putting them at even greater risk of income loss and job security if they can’t go to work.“

She said that while the Bill provides another security blanket to survivors, it also provides some guidance and support to employers on recognising domestic violence and what to do if an employee seeks paid sick leave because of it. Over the past few years similar legislation has been successfully enacted in Canada, New Zealand and The Philippines.

Safe Ireland Welcomes First Conviction for Coercive Control by Trial

Safe Ireland said that the first conviction of a man for coercive control, intimidation and multiple assaults on his former partner by trial is a landmark judgement in Ireland.

The national agency working with 39 frontline domestic violence services across the country, said that the conviction by a jury of “peers” indicates that there is a cultural understanding of the crime of coercive control, which is a deliberate and persistent pattern of behaviour over a prolonged period of time designed to achieve obedience and create fear.

Caitriona Gleeson, Programme and Communications Manager with Safe Ireland, said that it ended any notion that domestic abuse and coercive control is an episodic or once off event.

She commended the woman for the trust she placed in the justice system. She also commended An Garda Síochána for carrying out a thorough investigation which meant that the case could be brought forward by the DPP.

“This is a landmark case in Ireland and we hope that it will encourage many other women living with the terrorising pattern of coercive control to come forward and to know that they will be believed and understood,” Gleeson said.

“This case also sends a strong message to abusive men that if they think that it is acceptable to control, isolate, intimidate or degrade a woman, as this man did on a prolonged basis, they will have to stop this behaviour, or they will be convicted of a very serious crime.”

This week Safe Ireland presented data for the first six months of Covid-19 which showed that nearly 2,000 women and over 400 children looked for support from a domestic violence service every month from March to August 2020.

Nearly 3,500 women contacted a domestic violence service for the first time during initial lockdown – new Safe Ireland report on Covid-19

National agency says that prioritising domestic violence must also mean funding it adequately

A new report from Safe Ireland, called Tracking the Shadow Pandemic, shows that a total of 3,450 women and 589 children who had never, as far as is known, contacted a domestic violence before, looked for support and safety from abuse and coercive control during the first six months of Covid-19, from March to August 2020.

This equates to 575 ‘new’ women and 98 ‘new’ children every month, or 19 new women and 3 children every day. New women and children accounted for 29% and 24% respectively of all those who looked for support from a domestic violence service during the first wave of the Covid crisis.

In total, at least 1,970 women and 411 children received support from a domestic violence service every month over the period. The tracking study is based on data collected monthly by Safe Ireland from its frontline member services, which is continuing through lockdown 2.

Mary McDermott, Co-CEO of Safe Ireland, McDermott said that the study traces the tragic story of the shadow domestic violence pandemic that unfolded during the first lockdown. It also underlines the enormous strains that services throughout the country were under, and now continue to be under, as they deal with the impact of lockdown 2.

She said that while Government has continuously name-checked domestic violence as a priority this has not been backed up by the resources and infrastructural modernisation that is needed.

The six month report also shows that 33,941 helpline calls were answered across the country over the period, that’s an average of 184 calls every day. By comparison, in 2018, domestic violence services responded to an average of 147 calls a day. The Covid call rate shows an increase of 25%.

On average, there were 191 women and 288 children staying in domestic violence accommodation (refuge, safe homes and supported housing) each month. At the same time, 1,351 requests for refuge – or 7 requests per day – could not be met as there was no space. However, services worked creatively to find alternative accommodation in the community.

“Since the start of Covid-19 the government has prioritised domestic violence and we have always welcomed this,” McDermott said. “But calling something a priority means that it also has to be name-checked in the national budget, and funded and resourced as a priority.”

“The number of new women and children who came forward during the first lockdown is eye-opening and indicative of the depth of hidden abuse and trauma in this country,” she continued. “Our member services have pulled out all the stops to respond to the increasing and complex needs of women and children since March. But this is on top of decades of coping with impossible conditions and demands. They are at breaking point now and can no longer be expected to work, without clarity, without adequate resources and within an antiquated infrastructure.”

Safe Ireland recommended that €7.5 million was needed for services in Budget 2021 to ensure that they can meet current and growing demands. To date, however, there has been no clarity from Government on how the hard pressed sector is actually going to be funded.

The sector is also looking for the urgent roll out of a funded national service development plan, as the start of a comprehensive and long-term response to the enormous everyday problem of domestic violence, exacerbated by Covid-19 lockdown.

The data collected reflects the anecdotal stories reported by services from March and August. Mirroring what Safe Ireland initially referred to as an ominous silence, the number of women accessing services decreased by 8% between March and April as lockdown restrictions came into full effect. However, since April, the numbers have steadily increased month on month. In July, at least 2,210 women received support from services, the highest amount of any month. August saw the highest numbers of children receiving support at 578, an increase of 36% over July figures.  July and August were also the busiest months for helpline calls. The data collection is continuing and will track activity during the current lockdown period.

Tracking the Shadow Pandemic – The Story from March to August 2020

  • 3,450 women and 589 children contacted a domestic violence service for the first time.
  • On average 1,970 women and 411 children received support from a domestic violence service every month.
  • 33,941 helpline calls were answered – an average of 184 calls every day.
  • Services held 33,624 phone support sessions, 575 video support sessions and 8,143 in-person support sessions.
  • Services received a 2,260 helpline emails, 3,452 texts and 1,047 online chat messages.
  • On average 191 women and 288 children were in domestic violence accommodation each month.
  • 1,351 requests for refuge could not be met due to lack of space.
  • July and August were the busiest months. At least 2,210 women received support from services in July and 578 children received support in August.