Friday 22nd November 2019: Women’s Aid, a national organisation supporting women and their children experiencing domestic violence, today launches its new report ‘A Legacy of Loss – Femicide Watch 2019’. The Femicide Watch report finds that women are more likely to die in their own homes and by a man known to them. This fits a global pattern and is in stark contrast to male homicide victims, the majority of whom are killed by strangers. Strangers make up 13% of perpetrators of female homicide in Ireland. In over half of the resolved cases (56%), women were killed in by a current or former boyfriend, partner or husband.
Women’s Aid CEO Sarah Benson set out the chilling history of Femicide in Ireland:
“Since our records began in 1996, 230 women have died violently in Ireland. 16 children, ranging from 5 months to 14 years old, have died alongside their mothers. 100 women have died at the hands of their current or former partners. These figures should shame Irish society. The legacy of loss is incalculable. The lives of the women and children named in our report were so valuable, so full of potential which is now unrealised. We want each of them to be remembered for their achievements, their qualities, their hopes and dreams. We want to make visible, not only these needless deaths, but also the lives of these women and children, who mattered so much to so many.”
Women’s Aid launches its report with a seminar this morning which will hear from national and international experts on coercive control, domestic violence and homicide and support for bereaved families. Speakers include: Kathleen Chada, mother of two sons murdered by their father and victim advocate; Norah Gibbons, Chair of the Independent Study on Familicide and Domestic Homicide Reviews; Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid; Ryan Hart, coercive control and domestic homicide campaigner and Frank Mullane, MBE, international expert on domestic homicide reviews. The event will be chaired by broadcaster Claire Byrne. This event, taking place ahead of UN Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November), will hear a call by Women’s Aid for the Government to introduce, resource and properly legislate for a multi-agency process of domestic homicide reviews (DHRs).
Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid says:
“When women call Women’s Aid and tell us that they are afraid for their lives, we believe them. We know just how dangerous domestic abuse can be. Femicide by an intimate partner must not be accepted as a fact of life in our society. Women should be safe in their homes and in their relationships. And we must recognise the strong connection between the killing of women and domestic abuse.”
The frontline organisation notes that the dangerous patterns present in abusive relationships, which can put women at risk of serious assault or homicide, are too often dismissed and not taken seriously. Many of the risk factors in domestic homicide cases overlap with behaviours and tactics used by perpetrators of domestic abuse including: threats to kill, abuse during pregnancy, jealousy, stalking and surveillance and highly controlling behaviour. Physical violence may not be a factor in all cases, prior to the point of escalation to murder.
Ms Benson explains:
“One death is one too many and we have to do more to help save women and children’s lives. One key initiative that could help immediately is the introduction of a system of Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs). These reviews should be independently chaired, have powers to make and monitor recommendations to improve prevention. Any DHR system must also include the testimony of family members of the woman, her informal community networks including friends and social groups. We know from other jurisdictions that DHRs are a very important tool for families and loved ones to have their voices heard after often feeling let down by or voiceless in the Criminal Justice System or in the aftermath of a case of murder.”
Ms Benson added:
“Children and other bereaved family members may need specialist long term psychological support. This should be provided for free by the State for as long as it is needed by specifically trained counsellors. It is important that support is provided at times such as during appeals and parole reviews, which are re-traumatising for the family. Existing services and networks such as schools, faith leaders, social and community services, should also be trained on how to support families bereaved by domestic homicide in the community.”
Women’s Aid believes that increased recognition and management of risk factors for intimate partner homicide would lead to an improved response to domestic violence by the State and its agencies, saving the lives of women and children.
Ms Benson states:
“Risk assessment and risk management strategies can be developed and employed by agencies tasked to protect women and children, such as An Garda Síochána, social workers, HSE and other authorities and specialist domestic violence services. Many already have engaged in adopting such tools, which is extremely welcome.”
At the seminar, speakers will also highlight the need for improvements in media reporting of domestic homicide and domestic violence.
Ms Benson says:
“We believe that media reporting on intimate partner femicide and domestic violence can improve and that positive and responsible reporting can add to the public’s understanding and support those affected as they seek support and justice. It can also safeguard the privacy and dignity of the victim, their families and their communities.”
The current Independent Study on Familicide and Domestic Homicide Reviews offers an excellent opportunity for Ireland to address these issues, including media reporting. Women’s Aid has made a detailed submission to the study and Norah Gibbons, who is leading the process, will address today’s seminar and update on the work to date. Women’s Aid believes that Ireland has the potential to move to a place where no domestic homicides occur.
Sarah Benson concludes:
“While reiterating that one death is one too many, it is important to note that the numbers of women murdered appear to be reducing - certainly in the last decade compared to the decade prior to that. We may not have a clear way to definitively determine causal factors, but it is important to reflect on what might we already be doing better now that we were 20 years ago? What can we take encouragement from? What can we build on? In recent years we have opened up the public discussion about domestic abuse, which I hope has reduced the serious stigma victim survivors feel, and encouraged more to seek support and speak out.
We need to ensure the social conversation remains continuous, so that families, friends, colleagues, employers of those living with abuse might be better equipped to know the signs and reach out a hand to those suffering - but also to safely challenge the behaviours and attitudes of perpetrators - who are, after all, someone’s family, friend or colleague also.”
For more information contact Christina Sherlock, Head of Communications on 0879192457/01-6788858 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes for producers/editors:
Download the report here. List of 230 women and 16 children available in the report from page 22.
Key statistics from the Women’s Aid Femicide Report 2019:
The Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline responded to 44 calls a day in 2018.
The types of abuse and behaviour that precedes intimate partner Femicide, mirrors what we hear from women each day. Last year 19,089 contacts were made with Women’s Aid during which we noted 16,994 disclosures of abuse against women and 3,728 disclosures of child abuse. We heard 898 disclosures where a man has told a woman he will kill her, the children, a family member or himself. We heard 3,816 disclosures of physical abuse included where a man had choked, smothered, beaten or threatened to beat his partner with a weapon. We also noted 561 disclosures of stalking –both online and in person - and 141 reports of assault during pregnancy.
Women's Aid is a national organisation providing support and information to women experiencing domestic violence through its Direct Services. It runs the only free, national, domestic violence helpline (1800 341 900, 24 hours, 7 days) with specialised trained staff & volunteers, accredited by the Helplines Partnership and with a Telephone Interpretation Service covering 170 languages for callers needing interpreting services as well as a Text Service for Deaf and Hard of Hearing women. Women's Aid also offers a Dublin-based One to One Support Service and Court Accompaniment Service and runs the Dolphin House Support and Referral Service in the Dublin District Family Law Court (in partnership with Inchicore Outreach Centre.)