Safe Ireland Urges Yes Vote on May 25th

Choice at home, close to local specialist dv services is the only safe option for women living in abusive relationships.

Safe Ireland, the national social change agency working to end domestic violence, today said that a yes vote this Friday is the only way to ensure that women living with domestic violence can access safe services when pregnancy is used as a tool of control and abuse.

The organisation which represents 40 domestic violence services across the country, said it was concerned that groups advocating a no vote were incorrectly, and without any evidence, saying that access to abortion in Ireland would put more women at risk in abusive relationships.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, said Sharon O’Halloran, CEO of Safe Ireland.

“The eighth amendment is inherently unsafe and presents a huge risk for women living with domestic violence,” she said. “The only way to make Ireland a safer country for women is to ensure that there is access to safe, controlled and wrap-around abortion services and supports here at home.”

“If a woman is being forced to have an abortion by a controlling or abusive partner it is going to be far safer for her to have interaction with abortion services here in Ireland rather than travelling overseas,” she continued. “Doctors and nurses here, who may suspect or are told about coercion through pregnancy, can get in touch with specialist domestic violence services here if that is what the patient wants. This essential wrap-around approach is not going to happen if a woman has to go to another jurisdiction, miles from her family, miles from her community and miles from the services that can help her here.”

O’Halloran also said that it was critical to remember that the majority of rape in Ireland occurs within the home, often within violent intimate relationships. She said that currently, if a woman living under coercion and abuse becomes pregnant through rape or if she does not want to proceed with a pregnancy, she has little or no safe options open to her under current provisions.

“How can you travel if your movements and finances are being controlled? How can you risk disclosing that you don’t want to proceed with a pregnancy, even if you have been raped, if you are already under daily violent threat and you are in an overseas environment?” she said.

“It is crucial that we have a sensitive, sensible and safe abortion policy that allows a woman – any woman, anywhere – to, firstly, be supported to decide what she wants to do, and then, if she chooses to terminate her pregnancy, to ensure that she is linked into safe and legal services in her own country.”

For more information contact:

Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-2935207

Safe Ireland Welcomes Momentous Enactment of Domestic Violence Act by President Higgins

President Michael D. Higgin’s signing of the Domestic Violence Bill into law ushers in a safer future for women and children

Safe Ireland said that the signing into law of the new Domestic Violence Act by President Michael D. Higgins last night signalled the start of a safer future for women and children.

The national social change agency working to end domestic violence said that the new Act would now position Ireland as a world leader by providing a robust legislative foundation that recognises and responds to the control and inequality that is at the heart of domestic violence and abuse.

It said that it was very hopeful that the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan would commence the various sections of the Act as soon as possible so that the wide ranging provisions within it will be available for victims of the crime of domestic violence.

“This is ground-breaking and momentous because it means that we will have, for the first time, a robust legislative foundation that recognises and responds to the pernicious pattern of control, dominance, inequality and psychological abuse which is really at the heart of violence within the home,” said Sharon O’Halloran, CEO of Safe Ireland.

“Significantly, women can be confident that coercive control – a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour – will be recognised as a criminal offence in this country,” she continued. “This, we have no doubt, will help save women’s lives in this country.”

Safe Ireland also said that it was extremely significant that the Act recognises that violence between intimate partners is actually an aggravating offence. This, O’Halloran said, will help eradicate the culture of the past that has minimised violence within the home as “just a domestic or an issue that is a private one only.”

The agency also welcomed the increase in access to court and the introduction of statutory guidance for court orders allowed for within the Act and said that these would ensure greater transparency and consistency for women so reliant on a functioning judicial system.

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

Domestic Violence Bill On the Path to Long Anticipated Enactment

Final stage of new Bill brings Ireland one step closer to being one of the safest countries in the world for women, says Safe Ireland­.

Safe Ireland, the national social change agency working to end domestic violence, commended Senators for passing the ground-breaking and radical Domestic Violence Bill 2017 through its final stages in the Seanad today.

The agency, which works with 40 domestic violence services around the country, said that it was extremely hopeful that the Bill could be now signed into law by President Michael D. Higgins by the end of this month. It said that the Bill could help make Ireland one of the safest countries for women and children.

“Effectively, from today, and thanks to the extraordinary collective co-operation of Senators and TDs from all parties, women can be confident that coercive control will be recognised as a criminal offence in this country,” said Sharon O’Halloran, CEO of Safe Ireland.

“This is ground-breaking because it means that we will have, for the first time, a robust legislative foundation that recognises and responds to the pernicious pattern of control, dominance, inequality and psychological abuse which is really at the heart of violence within the home.”

Safe Ireland also said that it was extremely significant that the Bill recognises that violence between intimate partners is actually an aggravating offence. This, O’Halloran said, will help eradicate the culture of the past that has minimised violence within the home as “just a domestic or an issue that is a private one only.”

The agency also welcomed the increase in access to court and the introduction of statutory guidance for court orders allowed for within the Bill and said that these would ensure greater transparency and consistency for women so reliant on a functioning judicial system.

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

Safe Ireland Commends Government Commitments to New, Robust Domestic Violence Bill

Safe Ireland, the national social change agency working to end domestic violence, this evening welcomed the Government’s commitments to delivering a new Domestic Violence Bill 2017 which, it says, is robust, visionary and cutting edge in its response to the needs of women and children needing protection and safety.

The Bill passed its final stages in Dáil Eireann this evening. Safe Ireland said that it was extremely hopeful that it could now pass through final stages in the Seanad and could be enacted into law before the beginning of the summer.

While it acknowledged that it is unrealistic to think that the new legislation would change things overnight for women and children, the agency said that it was aware that the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has started to put infrastructural foundations in place already to ensure that key radical elements within the new Bill can be implemented as soon as possible.

Safe Ireland welcomed particularly the work undertaken by Government, and supported by TDs and Senators from across both houses, to secure ground-breaking new amendments that recognise the complexity of domestic violence as a crime of emotional, psychological as well as physical control.

Caitríona Gleeson, Programme and Communications Manager with Safe Ireland, highlighted amendments underpinning coercive control as an offence and recognising that violence between intimate partners is actually an aggravating offence, as examples of how the Bill responds to the reality of the experiences of women.

She also welcomed the increase in access to court and the introduction of statutory guidance for court orders allowed for within the Bill and said that these would ensure greater transparency and consistency for women so reliant on a functioning judicial system.

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

Every Day the Domestic Violence Bill is Delayed Vital New Protections for Women and Children are Denied

Oireachtas members are urged to do their best for those who are resisting the worst every hour and every day by prioritising the radical and robust Domestic Violence Bill.

Safe Ireland, the national social change agency working to end domestic violence, today urged the Oireachtas to prioritise the Domestic Violence Bill 2017 and to do everything in their power to ensure that it is enacted by the Summer recess at the very latest.

The Bill was passed by the Select Committee on Justice and Equality this morning (second stage). However, it is now almost seven years since the legislation was first promised by the previous Government in 2011 and a full year since it was introduced as a Bill to the Oireachtas.

The agency described the Bill as groundbreaking, strong and visionary. They acknowledged the dogged and Trojan work that has been done by Oireachtas members in Government and in opposition to refine the Bill to the point where strengthening protections and provisions agreed through amendments are “robust, radical and evidence-based”.

Caitriona Gleeson, Programme Manager with Safe Ireland, called for the same dogged determination to be shown now in bringing the Bill into law.

“Every day that this Bill is delayed is a further day that critical new protections are being denied to
women and children seeking protection and justice from our legal system,” she said.

“At a very minimum, there are almost 140 women calling domestic violence services every day,” said Caitriona Gleeson, Programme Manager with Safe Ireland. “These women and children are coming to us because their homes are tyrannies, because they are facing vicious violence, coercion, intimidation and fear. We are asking our political leaders to do their very best for those who are
resisting the worst every day.”

Latest Safe Ireland figures show that domestic violence services across Ireland answered 50,551 helpline calls in a year. This does not include the face to face support provided in that year to 10,101 women and 3,685 children (2016).

Safe Ireland welcomes particularly the introduction in the legislation of the new offence of coercive control, statutory guidance for the making of DVA orders and the recognition that an intimate relationship between a victim and a perpetrator will be regarded as an aggravating offence, moving away at last from the minimisation of the crime that has allowed it be sidelined as “just a domestic.”

It also welcomes the extension of safety orders to non-cohabiting applicants who do not have a child in common but who are in an intimate relationship. This, Safe Ireland said, represents a significant increase in the number of people who will be protected by the legislation.

For more information contact:

Edel Hackett
Tel: 087-2935207

Key Changes that Will Change Women’s Lives

  • Open list of factors and circumstances to be taken into account on any application for a DV Act order
  • New offence of coercive control.
  • Intimate relationship as an aggravating factor on sentence.
  • Offence of forced marriage.
  • New Emergency Barring Order which recognises that the perpetrator can be evicted from his/her home.
  • Extension of Safety Orders to non-cohabiting applicants in an intimate relationship.
  • Restrictions on personal cross-examinations in DVA applications.
  • Power to allow evidence to be given by video-link.
  • Breach of DVA order proceedings to be held in camera.
  • Right of accompaniment.

Safe Ireland Welcomes Historic Government Amendments to Domestic Violence Bill

Safe Ireland welcomed amendments published by the Government to the Domestic Violence Bill 2017 as an historic breakthrough for women and children living with violence in their homes.

The Government amendments,  recognise for the first time, that coercive control is a criminal offence and, significantly, that violence within an intimate relationship should be viewed as an aggravating factor in sentencing.

A number of other amendments recommended by Safe Ireland have been incorporated also, including establishing statutory guidance for the granting of domestic violence orders. The aim of such an amendment is to increase consistency in decision making on the granting of orders. 

The amendments show the Government’s understanding and recognition that violence in intimate relationships is the most serious breach of trust. If passed, we can, for the first time in this country, move on from minimising violence and abuse in the home as ‘just a domestic. These amendments instead declare that violence within an intimate relationship is the most serious breach of trust between people and is in fact more serious because of that.

Safe Ireland and other NGOs have been advocating for these amendments for over three years since the new DV legislation was first presented.

The Bill was passed by the Seanad in December and is waiting to be resumed in the Dail. Safe Ireland call on all political parties and independents to support the amendments for women and children and to work together to ensure that the Domestic Violence Bill is now passed through the Oireachtas to enactment stage as swiftly as possible.

Safe Ireland publishes a Review of its work for 2015 and 2016

It is with great pleasure that we in SAFE Ireland present our Review for the years 2015 and 2016. This has been a positive and productive time and we have achieved many things.

We have been steadfast at all times in collaborating with our Members throughout the country to ‘centre stage’ women and children’s needs in all that we do together. We are as committed as ever to making Ireland the safest country in the world for women and children. We understand that inequality begins in the home and it must end in the home. We realise that this ambition will take time to manifest and all of us working together over the coming years. But it is possible, we live in a relatively small jurisdiction, a jurisdiction that is less complicated than many. But more than that we have a track record in this country of providing leadership and vision for change, we have led the way many times and particularly in marriage equality achieved in 2015, in the lifetime of this review.

That said, we have work to do and we have changes to make if we want to have an impact on the lives of women and children experiencing domestic violence. We have to find better ways of working at interagency, interdisciplinary levels, we all have a role to play to end domestic violence. We need to be less busy building our agencies, profiling our agencies and really get serious about eradicating domestic violence from our homes and communities. We need to enable a generosity of spirit to grow in our work together, it is not what we do but how we do it together that matters.

In 2015 following an extensive review and consultation process with internal and external stakeholders, the Board and Members of SAFE Ireland agreed a 5-year Strategic Plan Changing Culture and Transforming the Response to Domestic Violence in Ireland 2015-2020 which sets our goal, core vision and key priorities that will underpin our work over the coming years. 2015 marked the start of the delivery of our transformative social change agenda on the issue with the support of The Community Foundation for Ireland who has committed to part-fund the implementation of our Strategic Plan over the next 5 years.

In 2016 with our Members and colleagues throughout the globe SAFE Ireland created the SAFE Ireland Summit, a place where we dared to listen, where we dared to think outside the box, where we posed questions and pushed unwanted boundaries that hemmed us in and kept violence alive. It was a place of vital endeavour, we dared to believe that Ireland can become the safest country in the world and we understood that we needed to change the world, we needed a bigger vision for everybody throughout the world. We will build on this work so that the world can be safer for all of us, we will dare to stand for LOVE and we invite you to join us in this sacred work.

View the SAFE Ireland Annual Review 2015-2016 here (PDF 10Mb)

Two International Experts on Domestic Violence visit Ireland in July

SAFE Ireland invited two International experts on domestic violence and coercive control, Professor Evan Stark and Davina James-Hanman to Ireland this past month to deliver training to professionals who have a role in responding to women and children experiencing domestic violence.

L-R Caitríona Gleeson, Programme & Communications Manager, SAFE Ireland, Davina James-Hanman, Síobhan McKenna, Chair of SAFE Ireland, Prof. Evan Stark and Sharon O’Halloran, CEO SAFE Ireland at the Seminar on Understanding Coercive Control in Croke Park on July 11th

Professor Evan Stark  is a sociologist, forensic social worker, award-winning researcher and the leading global expert on coercive control in the context of domestic violence and abuse. He has advised the English, Welsh and Scottish Governments on their coercive control laws. Davina James-Hanman is an independent Violence Against Women Consultant. She has worked in the field of violence against women for over three decades in a variety of capacities. She has published innumerable articles and three book chapters and advised a number of Government Departments in the UK on domestic violence policy.

Over the course of their three day visit to Ireland, Davina and Evan delivered a Masterclass for Lawyers in the Law Society and a Seminar in Croke Park on: Understanding Coercive Control. They also held a series of briefings and meeting with members of the Oireachtas, Tusla, Cosc, the Victims of Crime Office, the Court Services and An Garda Síochána with the aim of deepening the understanding of coercive control and its effect and impact on victims of domestic violence in Ireland.

Prof. Evan Stark delivering the Masterclass in the Law Society

On Monday, 10th of July SAFE Ireland were delighted to collaborate with Gallagher Shatter Solicitors to deliver a Masterclass for Lawyers on: Understanding Coercive Control with Professor Evan Stark in Law Society, Blackhall Place, Dublin. The Masterclass was a great professional development opportunity for law practitioners in the challenging areas of human rights, family law, criminal law, and child protection relating to domestic violence. Professor Stark spoke to those in attendance about the importance of recognising the spectrum of coercive control and its impact on victims of domestic violence.

Ciara Matthews, Managing Partner, Gallagher Shatter Solicitors introducing Pro. Evan Stark at the Masterclass on Understanding Coercive Control held at the President’s Hall in the Law Society, Blackhall Place, Dublin on the 10th of July.

On Tuesday, 11th of July, SAFE Ireland held a full-day Seminar in Croke Park on: Understanding Coercive Control to over 170 delegates from a wide range of professionals and volunteers working with victims and/or offenders  of domestic violence. In attendance were survivors of violence, staff and volunteers from Domestic Violence Services,  members of An Garda Síochána, staff from Probations Services, Perpetrator Programmes,  Tusla, HSE, legal professionals, feminist campaigners and social and health care professionals from state and NGO service providers and advocacy organisations.

Professor Stark informed the delegates that coercive control is a pattern of sustained emotional and psychological abuse of a partner which seeks to deprive women of their liberty and freedom. He argued that it is this denial of a woman’s right to liberty and freedom which makes domestic violence not only a violation of a woman’s bodily integrity but also her human rights.

He warned the Irish Government that if coercive control was not legislated for in this country, it would be in breach of the Istanbul Convention. He urged those in attendance to delve a little deeper when working with domestic violence, to ask questions and to shift their approach from asking why doesn’t she leave? to what are the mechanisms he is using to make her stay?

Davina James-Hanman speaking at the Croke Park Seminar

In describing the impact coercive control has on women, SAFE Ireland’s Programme & Communications Manager, Caitríona Gleeson said: When we meet women, their worlds are becoming smaller and smaller because the abusive partner is restricting their access to resources, to friends, to movements and timings. Domestic violence she said is made up of a whole range of behaviours, which also include physical abuse and sexual abuse and sexual coercion but it’s much greater than just physical violence and sexual violence which often people understand domestic violence just to be.

Delegates at the Seminar on: Understanding Coercive Control in Croke Park on July 11th

Davina James-Hanman, in her presentation shared with the delegates her experience of carrying out domestic violence homicide reviews in the UK. She spoke of a study which found that intimidating controlling behaviour was present in 92% of domestic violence killings in Britain. Ms. James-Hanman said homicide reviews should be carried out in detail in Ireland.

She outlined to the audience that reports from different agencies could be combined to find out where incidents had not been flagged up as domestic violence even though the victim was killed by a partner. This was, she said, a way Gardai, social workers and lawmakers could bring about change.

L to R: Back Row, Senator Mary Alice Higgins, Sharon O’Halloran, SAFE Ireland, Senator Ivana Bacik. L to R: Front Row, Senator Collette Kelleher, Davina James-Hanman, Prof. Evan Stark, Fiona O’Loughlin T.D. and Caitríona Gleeson, SAFE Ireland

This visit comes at a highly critical time as SAFE Ireland is working towards getting  a specific offence of coercive control to be included in the Domestic Violence Bill 2017. SAFE Ireland were delighted to have the opportunity to meet with Members of the Oireachtas to discuss creating an offence of coercive control in Irish law and for Professor Stark and Ms. James-Hanman to share their learning from the English, Welsh and Scottish experience.

Some media coverage of the visit:

SAFE Ireland acknowledges the support of the Scheme to Support National Organisations 2016-2019 and the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Tusla, Victims of Crime Funding and the Community Foundation for Ireland in resourcing its ongoing work.

      

The Safe Ireland Summit 2016

The most ambitious event on domestic violence ever created in Ireland comes to life.

On the 14th and 15th of November 2016 over 200 people from all over Ireland, America, Norway, Australia, Canada and Hawaii, joined 53 world and homegrown thought leaders in the Mansion House. The reason that the Summit attracted this caliber of speakers and delegates was because of SAFE Ireland’s work towards its vision that Ireland can become the safest country in the world for women and children.

Maria Dempsey, mother of Alicia Brough who was murdered six years ago to the day of the Summit, chose the SAFE Ireland Summit to speak for the first time. She was giving a voice to her daughter and to the many other women “who are not with us” because of domestic violence and homicide. Maria ignited the atmosphere for the two-day Summit that followed.

She encouraged people everywhere to speak out about domestic violence and to take action against all forms of violence, including being a more open and communicative society that can talk about how we feel including when we have murderous thoughts. She also called the media on their reporting of her child’s murder and reminded us at the Summit and in the press interviews she took part in around the Summit of the responsibilities we have in how we choose to talk and write about violence.

Maria’s daughter Alicia was staying with her friend Sarah and her children because Sarah was afraid of her abusive ex-partner, John Geary. John was found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend, his baby daughter Amy, his stepson Reece and Maria’s daughter, Alicia.

After six years I want to give voice to Alicia and so many other women who are not here with us because they were taken, viciously, unjustly, violently.” she said from the SAFE Ireland Summit stage.

We have to create an Ireland where all voices are heard, even those saying things that are difficult to hear,” she continued.  “Where someone can say ‘no, I’m not fine’.  Where, without judgment, someone can say ‘I feel so angry, I feel murderous’.  That we listen to and know what to do with murderous and suicidal words.”

Listen to Maria speak here

SAFE Ireland created this space in the Mansion House, a stage from which speakers, thinkers, advocates, activists, and artists could speak and share ideas, be together with the purpose of action towards a safer world for women and children. In a world where mainstream platforms for social discussion are often censored, or access restricted, it is as important now as it ever has been to create our own spaces. Personal stories were shared with purpose, professional experiences were explained and commitments were made to take what was learned during the Summit out into the world and to challenge the culture we all live in that facilitates domestic violence.

Lynn Rosenthal, the first ever Advisor to the White House on Violence Against Women and Táinaiste Frances Fitzgerald, shared their journeys from the grassroots through to their government positions.

The Táinaiste said that she believed SAFE Ireland’s vision was achievable – that Ireland could be the safest country in the world for women and children.

Lynn Rosenthal told the Summit audience: “We know that you are a country that believes change is possible. You did it when you passed marriage equality… I believe, as Ireland believes, that change is possible.

Hozier performed his song Cherry Wine and told Claire Byrne that activism on this issue  “[is] important now more than ever. On a grassroots basis, the most powerful man on the planet was elected after talking and joking in a bragging context about sexual abuse towards women and was elected still,” said the singer. “I think it’s an uphill struggle.You can listen to Hozier in conversation with Claire Byrne here

Leigh Goodmark, Dr. Nata Duvvurry, Bronwyn Winter, Linda Hamilton Krieger,  and Helen Lowey made sense of the legal, economic and policy issues relating to domestic violence, while Karen Ingala Smith shone a light on the number of women who have been killed by men in the UK, why she decided to count them and why we have to talk about the extent of men’s violence towards women.

picture1Mona Eltahawy, Colm O’Gorman and Ivana Bacik set the stage alight with their energy and activism relaying their personal experiences of disrupting what is political. Olivia O’Leary seemed to get to the crux of one of the major problems in Irish society when she asked, “Why do we always expect the person with the least power in the situation to make the bravest move?” A quote that delegate, artist Lisa Fingleton illustrated so evocatively.

You can listen back to Olivia’s speech here

We spoke boldly about how we could redesign society, how culture could change culture, how patriarchy was harming us all.

As a performer and writer Carlos Andrés Goméz contribution was as evocative as it was powerful. He dedicates himself to dismantling compulsory, patriarchally – determined manhood which impacts so abusively on women, girls, gay and transgendered people as well as on men themselves. Listen to Carlos here

Louise O’Neill spoke of her belief in the power of art to shape the way we see ourselves and transform the world so that the culture becomes one that values women and men equally.

Panti Bliss closed the first day of the summit calling on us to challenge culture’s rigid gender boundaries, so that we are not bound by convention and can dream a future that is about kindness, love and empathy. Listen to Panti here.

Day 2 opened with Dr. Gabor Mate outlining how and why all the major causes of virtually all human dysfunction emanate from the impact of childhood trauma. Dr. Stephanie Holt spoke of how the voice of the child is paramount in the context of domestic violence. Dr. Rhona Mahony suggested the first step to supporting women experiencing domestic violence is us, the bystanders, having this conversation. John Lonergan the former Governer of Mountjoy recalled his experience working with prisoners and described how they too were once innocent babies who became disconnected, poor, alienated adults. Encouragement, love, praise and compassion are what John believes people need.

Marylouise Kelley shared with the audience her personal story of being a victim and survivor of domestic violence. Marylouise later became a domestic violence advocate and today is the Director of the Family Prevention & Services Act (FVPSA) Program which is the primary federal funding dedicated to support shelter and advocacy for victims of domestic violence and their children in the US.

Eve Ensler brought the Summit audience to their feet as they joined the One Billion Rising. One billion – the number of women who will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. The Summit audience rose to dance in defiance of the injustices women suffer, demanding an end at last to violence against women. You can listen back to Eve’s speech here.

Dr. Mary McAuliffe brought us on a journey through history as she recalled the women revolutionaries of the 1916 rising. Inspiring us to remember, recognise and build on their daring work. Dr. Cris Sullivan continued in that vein urging us to be bold in our work. Mark Pollock was inspirational as he spoke of making the impossible possible.

Emma Murphy gave a powerful personal testimony of her experience of domestic violence. She recounted how she used social media to break the silence around her experience of domestic violence to spectacular effect. Victor Rivas Rivers also about his personal experience of domestic violence and how some individuals who were willing to take a stand on his behalf, saved his life.

Simone George highlighted that one in three women in Ireland have experienced domestic violence. And while we heard shocking statistics on the reality of domestic violence in Ireland over the course of the 2 days, Louise O’Neill wrote later in the Irish Examiner that the Summit, “…wasn’t self-pitying or plaintive, although there were heart-rending stories of abuse told; it was a showcase for strength, determination, a ferocious energy crackling through the Mansion House like a live wire.”

Simone called for a more open discussion on the problem adding that, “the home is the last Irish institution to be opened up.
Sharon O’Halloran, CEO of SAFE Ireland, said that Ireland could lead the “social revolution” that is needed to eradicate domestic violence. “Domestic violence and domestic homicide is everyone’s business,” she said.  “We need a social revolution to bring this issue into the open, to address it seriously, to see it and treat it and name it as the barbaric crime that it is. I have faith in my country to lead the way, to be the safest country for women and children.

First, however, we have to address some home truths.  In Ireland we haven’t quite figured out how to talk about the fact that not everyone is born into or lives in a lovely, safe home.  We need to wake up to the unassailable fact and evidence that the most dangerous threat to women’s safety comes from within the home, within their relationships.”

 

Over 4,000 domestic violence victims a year being ignored in housing crisis

New research also indicates that the frequency and severity of violence forcing women to leave their homes could be worse than previously documented

SAFE Ireland warned that homeless figures and needs are being greatly under-estimated because over 4,000 women and children being accommodated on a yearly basis in emergency refuge accommodation are not being counted and recognised as being homeless.

At the recent launch of a new SAFE Ireland report The State We Are In, CEO Sharon O’Halloran stressed that women and children forced to leave violent homes are being caught in the cross-fire of the national housing crisis. She said that 37 services that participated in new housing research as part of The State We Are In are reporting that they have never seen things so bad for women and children.
state-we-are-in-2016-spreads-and-cover image
Download The State We Are In report here (7Mb PDF)
make-it-happen-toolkitDownload Make It Happen here (700kb PDF)
Download INASC report here (3.2Mb PDF)
In 2014, 1,658 individual women and 2,349 children (4,007 in total) were accommodated in emergency refuge accommodation. In addition, 4,831 requests for refuge could not be met because the refuge was full. Refuges remain at capacity levels today. Government figures at the end of February 2016 show that 912 families with 1,881 children were in emergency homeless accommodation but this does not include the majority of those in emergency refuge accommodation.

O’ Halloran said that this situation is all the more distressing because indicative research into women’s interactions with the criminal justice system, also compiled as part of The State We Are In, gives fresh insight into the frequency and severity of violence experienced by women. The interviews with 40 women show that two-thirds of them had experienced physical abuse on at least a weekly basis. For one third of research participants, physical, emotional or psychological abuse was a daily feature of their relationship. Half reported that they had experienced a serious threat to their lives (e.g. attempted strangulation) in the first incident of violence, belying the notion that violence escalates over time. SAFE Ireland stressed that a large-scale study was required to explore these findings more. However, the mixed method tool used in the new study provides rich understanding of the reality of violence, it said.

“This new evidence is indicating that some women and children may be experiencing violence every day of the year,” O’Halloran said. “Yet, when they escape this violence and look for two fundamental rights – access to a safe home and access to a justice system that responds to them seriously – they are being failed abysmally.”

“Domestic violence is simply not on the homeless agenda,” she said. “According to local authority practice, women leaving violent homes are not being considered homeless; they are seen as being out of home, as they have a home, albeit an unsafe, violent one. They are being rendered invisible when it comes to their right to a safe home.”

The new housing research shows that because of external barriers to housing – spiraling rents, low or no housing stock and inadequate or unavailable rent allowance – women are staying in refuge for longer than ever. The knock-on effect is that the needs of thousands of women also looking for emergency accommodation cannot be met because refuges are constantly full.

The emerging bank of research into women’s interactions with all levels of the justice system tells an equally dismal story, O’Halloran continued.

“Perhaps most stark and telling, our most recent legal research tells us that it is highly improbable that a domestic violence case will actually form the basis of a criminal prosecution. Domestic violence is not a crime under Irish law and so it continues to be dealt with – not as a serious offence – but as a lesser matter even though our research tells us that women are being threatened with their lives daily.”

O’Halloran said that while the picture of domestic violence remains grim, there have been welcome developments over the past years, including progressive systems responses from the Gardaí and the Courts Services. She called on all political parties and independents to make domestic violence a priority issue as a critical measure of a better, more caring Ireland.

SAFE Ireland called on the new Government to take decisive action in the first 100 days of its term. It called for the allocation of an additional €30 million annually to address gaps in struggling services from the Gardaí to specialist domestic violence services. It also called for political leadership, with the appointment of a Minister and Department to spearhead a determined response to domestic violence, including the enactment of vital legislation that would define domestic violence as an offence.

SAFE Ireland stressed that three short-term actions could change women’s lives immediately. It called for a waiver to the free legal aid charge for victims of domestic violence, for rent allowance to be granted to domestic violence victims immediately and an end to the local authority “centre of interest” requirement which means that women can only be assessed for housing in the county where they were living. Many women have to leave their locality because of the threat of violence.

SAFE Ireland’s Political Call to Action

Lynn Rosenthal, First White House Advisor on Violence Against Women

Sharon O’ Halloran, CEO, SAFE Ireland

Caitriona Gleeson, Programme and Communications Manager, SAFE Ireland

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Professor Cris Sullivan, Michigan State University

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Dr. Conor Hanly, NUI Galway

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Caroline Counihan BL

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  • 1,658 women and 2,349 children stayed in refuge in 2014.1
  • Nearly 12,500 people in total – 9,448 women with 3,068 children – received support and/or accommodation from a domestic violence service.2
  • 4,831 requests for refuge could not be met because the refuge was full. – that’s 14 unmet requests for refuge every day.3
  • Women and children experiencing domestic violence are not considered to be homeless according to local authority practice.
  • There is no such thing as a typical victim of domestic violence. They range in age, occupation and education levels. They are as likely to be married as not.4
  • Domestic violence is rarely a once-off event, instead tending to be a pattern of ongoing events.5
  • Two thirds of 40 participants in SAFE Ireland qualitative research reported that they experienced physical abuse on at least a weekly basis. For one third of participants, physical and emotional or psychological abuse was a daily feature of their relationship.6
  • Domestic violence does not necessarily begin at a low level and then gradually escalate; participants in SAFE Ireland qualitative research reported that at least one of the indicators of a serious threat to the victim’s life (attempted strangulation, physical abuse while pregnant, threats to kill victim or children) were present in the very first violence incident.7
  • 79% of women never report a serious physical or sexual assault by a male partner to anyone. Only between 8% and 12% of women report the crime they have experienced to a domestic violence service.
1 SAFE Ireland Annual Statistics 2014
2 ibid
3 ibid
4 INASC Improving Needs Assessment and Victims Support in Domestic Violence Related Criminal Proceedings, 2014. This research clearly states that it provides empirical based hypotheses indicating several characteristics of domestic violence in Ireland and the response of the criminal justice system. Because of limitations it does not purport to provide definitive conclusions.
5 ibid
6 ibid
7 ibid