2pm, Wednesday 8th May 2019: Today, Women’s Aid, the national domestic violence support organisation, presents to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs on the findings of its Impact Report 2018. The report launched last month detailed the 19,089 contacts made to the 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 and Dublin based One to One Services in 2018, during which 16,994 disclosures of domestic violence against women were noted. In the same year, the organisation heard 3,728 disclosures of child abuse in the context of domestic violence. The annual snapshot by Women’s Aid provides an insight into the level and nature of abuse experienced by women and children in homes and relationships across Ireland. At the launch, attended by Minister Katherine Zappone, T.D., Women’s Aid highlighted the strong links between child abuse and domestic violence and called for greater recognition of the risk to children, especially during access arrangements with domestic violence perpetrators.
At the hearing today, Women’s Aid Director Margaret Martin says:
“Many of the women who disclosed the above tactics of abuse to us have children: in fact 72% of the women who used our one to one services for the first time last year had children. We know from the EU wide FRA report that children are often aware of the violence experienced by their mothers and therefore we can confidently assume that a number of children in Ireland are aware of their mothers being abused as described above either because they see the abuse happening or they see the aftermath. They may be fearful for themselves, may want or try to intervene, may feel their mum cannot protect them, may fear she may be hurt or killed. We know that seeing or hearing or otherwise knowing about this abuse has a negative and profound impact on children.
In addition, we heard of 3,728 disclosures of abuse of children in the context of domestic violence, including children being physically, sexually and emotionally abused as well as witnessing the abuse against their mothers. In 432 cases disclosed to our helpline a social worker was involved.”
Ms Martin highlights a number of systems failures relating to children’s safety in the context of domestic violence. She explains:
“Despite the range and severity of the impact of domestic violence on children, they are often the forgotten victims, with limited services and protection available. Children are impacted by the lack of vital Services such as refuges: in 2018 the 24 hour National Freephone Helpline made a total of 244 calls to refuges for women who were unable to make the call themselves. On 126 occasions (52%) the refuges said they were full. In many of these calls, women would have children with them, and safe accommodation for them was simply not available. Women and children may have had to return to the abuser or become homeless.
Another huge gap is the lack of counselling services for children who have experienced domestic violence, either by being a witness to the violence against their mothers or by being directly targeted.
There are very few affordable and specialised services to assist children in their recovery journey. Moreover, the consent of the abuser is needed for the children to attend counselling, and it is often denied.”
Women’s Aid has made a number of detailed recommendations in our submission, looking at research, guidelines, training, Legal Aid and provision of supervised contact centres. The key principle binding these recommendations together is that there needs to be a recognition in law and in practice that the best interest of the child is to live free from domestic violence, including from witnessing abuse against their mothers and that any Custody and Access arrangement needs to ensure this as first priority.
For more information contact Christina Sherlock on 0879192457 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes for editors/producers:
 The FRA report on violence against women found that in Europe 73% of women who have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or a previous partner indicate that their children have become aware of the violence