Women’s Aid welcomes news of the Domestic Violence bill to be launched later today by Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Justice and Equality.
Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid, said: “We agree with the Minister that home is not a safe place for many women and children in Ireland. Last month, Women’s Aid launched our Impact Report for 2014 which highlighted over 13,000 contacts made with our National Freephone Helpline and Dublin based one to one support services in 2014 during which 16,464 disclosures of domestic abuse against women were made. In the same year, we also heard 5,786 disclosures of abuse of children. Our 2014 report highlighted once again the horrific range of violence and abuse being used by abusive men to not only control and hurt women but very often their children too.”
Ms Martin continued: “There is much to applaud in today’s announcement and we are now hopeful that we will see meaningful reform in the lifetime of the current Government. According to reports, the new Bill will update provisions relating to online and phone abuse, further protect victims from intimidation as they go through the court system and provide compulsory referral to domestic violence support services and offer easier access to interim barring orders. It is particularly good to see that the new bill will address for the first time the issue of intimidation and abuse by phone and electronic means. This is a concern that Women’s Aid has been highlighting for a number of years and we hope that these measures will increase the number of women who feel safe and supported to continue pursuing legal protection.”
However, Women’s Aid feels that there is missed the opportunity to address key gaps in legal protection for younger victims of domestic violence. Margaret Martin explains, “In her opinion piece today, Minister Fitzgerald quotes a statistic from the recent EU research on violence against women which shows that one in seven Irish women reported experiencing physical and/or sexual violence from a partner from the age of 15. However, it would seem that the developments to be announced today ignore the reality that many young women experiencing abuse in dating relationships cannot avail of any legal protection under the Domestic Violence Act – current or proposed, because they have never lived with their boyfriends. This significant cohort of vulnerable women remains outside the law.”
Ms Martin explained: “Dating abuse is a significant issue for our frontline support services. Research has shown that while young women can be at even higher risk of abuse in a relationship than their older counterparts, there is low recognition of controlling and coercive relationship behaviour among young women. We know that in a national survey on domestic abuse in Ireland, almost 60% of those who had experienced severe abuse in intimate relationships first experienced it when they were under the age of 25.”
Women’s Aid also welcomed the recommendation today by the Law Reform Commission for comprehensive laws to prevent a person financially benefiting from committing murder, attempted murder or manslaughter. Ms Martin said: “208 women have been murdered in Ireland since Women’s Aid started to record female homicide cases in 1996. In 55% of resolved cases the perpetrator has been a current or former intimate partner of the victim. We firmly believe that those who kill their partners should not financially benefit from their terrible actions and we support any development to prevent this from happening.”
Women’s Aid also welcomed the Minister’s stated intention of progressing Ireland’s signing of the Istanbul Convention in the autumn. Any development that improves the protection for and supports to victims of domestic violence must be applauded. However, we will continue to highlight critical gaps that remain.
For more information contact Christina Sherlock on 087 919 2457 or by email Christina.firstname.lastname@example.org
The Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900, 10am to 10pm, seven days a week.
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