Women's Aid Welcomes New Social Work Guidelines on Domestic Violence

25 May 2010

  • Report recognises the importance of women and children's safety in the context of domestic violence
  • Report also recognises that women are often at risk at the time of leaving an abusive relationship
  • Sets out 'Recognise, Respond and Refer' as best practice in responding to women and their children living with domestic violence

Margaret Martin, Director of Women's Aid, today welcomed the publication of new guidelines for social workers on responding to women living with domestic violence. The report, 'Practice document on domestic violence - a guide for working with children and families' was launched by the HSE Dublin South West Social Work Children and Families Department. Speaking after the launch, Margaret said, "The new guidelines are a very positive development which will increase the safety of women and children living with domestic violence. There is a growing awareness that stopping domestic violence isn't as simple as telling the woman to leave. As a key national organisation that has been supporting women for over 35 years, we know that leaving an abusive relationship is fraught with difficulty."

Ms Martin continued: "Whilst the risk of staying can be very high, simply leaving the relationship does not guarantee that the violence will stop. In fact, the period during which a woman is planning or making her exit, is often the most dangerous for her and her children. 51% of women murdered in Ireland over the last 14 years have been killed by their current or former partner with many killed at the point of/or after leaving a relationship. We also know that almost one fifth of callers to our National Freephone Helpline in 2008 were experiencing abuse by their former partners including stalking, physical assault and abuse during access arrangements."

The report, published by the HSE Dublin South West Social Work Children and Families Department is the outcome of inter-agency work between local domestic violence services, local community groups and social work professionals. It contains a number of important recommendations and guidelines for social work professionals working with families and children in the context of domestic violence. These are based on the principles of 'Recognise, Respond, Refer'. The guidelines also state that, in the context of domestic violence, protecting women is the best way to protect children.

Ms Martin agreed with this adding: "Women's Aid works from the principle that ensuring women's safety is the best form of child protection. We work with hundreds of women on a one to one basis to plan their safety and to discuss their options. We recognise the woman as the best person to judge her situation. We work with her to maximise her and her children's safety."

Ms Martin concluded: "Every day in Ireland women are raped, beaten and abused by those closest to them - their boyfriends, partners and husbands. There are many reasons that women can not and do not leave. But we know that the quality of response that women receive from professionals like social workers, domestic violence support organisations, and local community groups they may disclose to is likely to have a significant influence on their decision making. A woman should not be judged or told what to do when she discloses domestic violence. It is important that a woman receives support to enable her to increase her safety and that of her children, regardless of the choices she makes about her relationship with her abuser. That is why these guidelines are a very positive development."

The Women's Aid Helpline is open from 10am - 10pm, 7 days a week
1800 341 900

For more information contact Christina Sherlock at 01-8684721 or 087-9192457.

Notes to Editors

  • Women's Aid is a key national organisation, which provides support and information to women experiencing domestic violence. Women's Aid operates a National Freephone Helpline Service and a Dublin based One to One Support Service and Court Accompaniment Service. Women's Aid also refers to local refuges and support services around the country.
  • The Women's Aid Helpline 1800 341 900 is open 7 days a week, except Christmas Day, from 10am to 10pm.
  • Research shows that 1 in 5 women in Ireland experience domestic violence.
  • The Women's Aid Helpline responded to 10,140 calls in 2008 during which 15,158 incidents of domestic violence were disclosed. There were 9,101 incidents of emotional abuse disclosed, 3,355 incidents of physical abuse, and 1,900 incidents of financial abuse. 802 incidents of sexual abuse, which is traditionally not disclosed by women experiencing domestic violence, were recorded, with 281 rapes within relationships being reported to the service.
  • 18% of callers disclosed that they were experiencing abuse by former partners (10%) and husbands (8%). The abuse included: continued physical and sexual assault; physical assault of woman's new partner; stalking; shouting at and following the woman in the street; publicly humiliating her and damage to her new home and her property.
  • Since the beginning of 1996, 162 women have been murdered in Ireland. Of the resolved cases, 51% of women were murdered by a partner or ex-partner.
  • Reasons why women often do not leave: she may feel ashamed about what has happened or believe that it is her fault; she may be scared of the future (where she will go, what she will do for money, whether she will have to hide forever and what will happen to the children); she may feel too exhausted or unsure to make any decisions; she may be isolated from family or friends or be prevented from leaving the home or reaching out for help; she may have low self-esteem as a result of the abuse; she may believe that it is better to stay for the sake of the children (eg wanting a father for her children and/or wishing to prevent the stigma associated with being a single parent); women need to know what options are available to them, that they will be taken seriously and that their rights will be enforced. They need to be supported to make safe changes for themselves and their children. Resources and support they will need to leave safely include: money, housing, help with moving, transport, ongoing protection from the police, legal support to protect her and the children, a guaranteed income and emotional support. If a woman is not sure if these are available to her, this may also prevent her from leaving; women may also seek support from family or friends and the quality of the support they receive is likely to have a significant influence on their decision-making. Sometimes women will make several attempts to leave before they can actually leave permanently and safely.