Today, Thursday 22nd November, Women's Aid calls on the Government to prioritise the review of the Domestic Violence Legislation in Ireland in order to fully protect those women who are still left unprotected under the current system. The call comes at the launch of its annual 'One in Five Women' campaign, as part of the global 16 Days of Action Opposing Violence against Women. The awareness campaign includes the National Balloon Action and the new interactive 'One in Five Women' awareness raising video which allows the public to show support to and solidarity with women suffering domestic abuse (www.womensaid.ie/oneinfivewomen). The video also encourages women to find their voice and to call the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900.
During the campaign, Women's Aid is calling on the Government to fully protect women affected by domestic violence who are currently 'invisible' under the current arrangements. This can be achieved by providing a 24/7 on call system for emergency barring orders where women can access legal protection when they need it the most, and by extending eligibility for legal protection to women in dating relationships not living with their partners. Women's Aid is also calling for funding for domestic violence services to be protected in Budget 2013.
Speaking outside Dáil Éireann, Margaret Martin, Director of Women's Aid, says: "Every day in Ireland women are beaten, raped and abused by those closest to them - their boyfriends, husbands and partners. One in five women in the Republic of Ireland experience domestic violence and it can affect any woman from any walk of life. We understand how difficult it is for women experiencing domestic abuse to talk about what is happening. Many women are afraid that they will not be believed or that they will blamed for the abuse. Others struggle to find the words to describe their situation. All too often, women feel alone and isolated, unaware that help is available or unable to make sense of what is being done to them. Our National Balloon Action and our new awareness raising video allow us all to show solidarity and support to women living with abuse and to send a strong message that domestic violence is not acceptable in our society."
Women's Aid is calling for the comprehensive review of Domestic Violence Legislation promised by the current Government to be prioritised. Ms Martin explained: "Despite recent welcomed changes, Ireland's domestic violence legislation is still in need of major reform in order to fully protect vulnerable women and children when they need it the most. Many thousands of women avail of legal protection every day in this country, but there is still a significant number who cannot because they are not considered under the current arrangements."
Ms Martin continues: "Women's Aid recently commissioned a piece of legal research on international best practice in Domestic Violence legislation in other jurisdictions including the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Austria. This research, together with women's experience of the Irish legal system, has provided a series of recommendations that, if acted upon, would immediately increase protection for all women and children affected by domestic violence. For example, we know from women accessing support from our National Freephone Helpline that the lack of emergency protection when Courts are not sitting leaves them very vulnerable to further violence and serious harm. Women like Ciara* who rang us shortly after a violent assault by her partner which was witnessed by her 5 year old son. By the time the Gardaí came, her partner had fled. The Gardaí advised Ciara to seek a Barring Order as she feared that her partner would attack her again and she was desperate to have him barred from the home. However, it was 8pm on a Friday evening and no Court was open. All refuges in her area were full and Ciara felt she would be placing her family at risk from her partner's violence if she stayed with them. She had no choice but to remain at home with no protection until Monday morning when the Court re-opened. That weekend was a very fearful one as her partner could return at any moment. This is one woman's story but it reflects the experience of many women and children affected by domestic violence in Ireland today. It also points clearly to the need for a 24/7 on call system to provide emergency barring orders when the Courts are closed."
Women's Aid believes that everyone experiencing abuse at the hands of an intimate partner or ex-partner deserves legal protection and that protection should be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. During the One In Five Women Campaign, Women's Aid calls on the Government to act now to protect vulnerable women and children by carrying out the full review of the Domestic Violence Act and to sign up to the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combatting Domestic Violence as a sign of its commitment to end violence against women.
Women's Aid also asks the Government to protect vulnerable women and children in Budget 2013. Ms Martin concludes: "Women's Aid has experienced a 19% drop in state funding since 2008. So far, we have maintained the same level of service to women, but any further cut would mean a reduction in vital services. We are deeply worried about the impact of Budget 2013 on our services and those of other domestic violence services and community groups who provide a vital first point of contact. Protecting the vulnerable in the recession must surely include protecting women and children from domestic violence."
The Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 is open from 10am to 10pm, 7 days a week and is available, free of charge, throughout the Republic of Ireland. www.womensaid.ie
For more information contact Christina Sherlock or Laura Shehan on (01) 678 8858 or (087) 919 2457.
Notes to editors/producers: