Women’s Aid welcomes the publication of Submissions in relation to domestic and sexual violence today (November 21st) by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality as a positive step in the review of domestic violence legislation, providing a welcome opportunity for much needed reform. The report coincides with the Women’s Aid ‘One in Five Women’ Campaign, launched today by RTÉ Fair City Actress Helen Norton.
Commenting on the report Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid, said: “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. We look forward to working with the Committee towards this goal, and aim to give voice to the needs and experiences of the women we support through full participation in the review process.”
As part of its submissions made to the Committee, Women’s Aid is calling for a 24/7 on call system for emergency barring orders, so that women can access legal protection when they need it the most. According to Margaret Martin, emergency barring orders provide an opportunity to make a difference for women and children’s safety in a time of recession, and can be implemented within available resources. There is already a similar on-call system in operation for criminal law courts in Ireland.
Ms. Martin explained: “We know from women using our support services that the lack of access to legal protection when the courts are closed leaves women and children vulnerable to serious harm and further abuse over-night or over the weekend. At a time of diminishing funding and resources, we see domestic violence refuges operating at capacity, and when there is no space in refuge this presents a major barrier for women fleeing dangerous abuse in the home. Emergency barring orders increase the chances that women and children can remain safe in their own homes. It can mean the difference between staying securely at home with legal protection and sleeping in a car or sleeping rough.”
This Review has the potential to significantly improve the lives of the one in five women in Ireland experiencing domestic violence, with whom Women’s Aid stands in solidarity today. Launching the Women’s Aid ‘One in Five Women’ campaign, RTÉ Fair City actress Helen Norton said: “After portraying scenes of horrible domestic abuse against Vivienne on Fair City, I was overwhelmed by women contacting me who thanked me for the conversations that the TV storyline had started. This is too big an issue for us not to talk about. The ‘One in Five Women’ campaign gives us all a chance to show that domestic violence is not acceptable in our communities, to learn about the services available to women, and be able to support loved ones should they need us.”
Women’s Aid has submitted a series of additional recommendations to the Committee that, if acted upon, would immediately increase protection for everyone affected by domestic violence.
Ms Martin said: “We have seen the immediate impact that improved legislation can have on women and children’s safety. Following the 2011 extension of eligibility for safety and protection orders to groups like non-cohabiting parents with a child in common, we saw an immediate increase-of 34% in applications for safety orders and 23% in applications for protection orders-in 2012.“
She continued: “Many thousands of women avail of legal protection every year in this country, but there is still a significant number who are unable to access protection. 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. We congratulate the Committeeon the launch of these submissions, and their continued commitment to work towards this reform.”
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.
For more information contact Laura Shehan on (01) 678 8858 or (087) 919 2457.