Media Release: Domestic Violence Should Not Be a ‘Marginal Issue’ During General Election 2020 - Women's Aid

24 Jan 2020

Embargo: 6am, Friday 24th January 2020

  • Women’s Aid says that domestic violence is affecting hundreds of thousands of women and families across the country yet is not a headline issue in the General Election.
  • Women’s Aid calls on all political parties and candidates to treat domestic violence as a priority matter and address issues including family law, image based sexual abuse, resources for specialist support services and domestic homicide.
  • Domestic abuse is a serious public safety issue with 500-600 domestic violence calls made each week to An Garda Síochána.
  • 44 calls a day to the Women’s Aid 24hr National Helpline is only the tip of the iceberg of the level of abuse against women and children in Irish society.
  • Women’s Aid ‘Transform and Support’ Election Manifesto outlines ten priorities for whoever forms the next Government.
  • The organisation is calling on voters to ask candidates how they will transform the system and support survivors of abuse.

Friday 24th January 2020, Dublin: Women’s Aid, a national organisation supporting women and their children experiencing domestic violence, today launches its manifesto for the General Election 2020.  The ‘Transform and Support’ manifesto outlines ten priorities for the next Government to tackle violence and abuse against women and children.  The organisation is calling on voters to make domestic violence reform an issue on the doorstep.  Speaking at the launch outside Dáil Éireann, the organisation’s CEO Sarah Benson says:

“Domestic violence and abuse is a crime. It can result in stress, short and long term trauma and physical injuries, an in extreme cases, death.  It is an issue that affects hundreds of thousands of women and children across Ireland.  However, it is not seen as a priority issue for the majority of candidates, political parties and media commentators during election time.   This begs a number of questions.  Why isn’t this a headline issue?  Are we so blind or immune to the suffering behind closed doors?”

Ms Benson argues:

“Domestic violence is a serious public safety issue. Recent figures from An Garda Síochána suggests that they receive between 500 – 600 calls a week.  That is a staggering 30,000 calls a year.  Our own 24hr National Freephone Helpline and other support services responded to over 19,000 contacts in 2018.  Yet, we know these figures are just the tip of the iceberg.  I am very concerned about the countless other victims who have yet to reach out and seek support from specialist services.”

Women’s Aid is calling on political parties and candidates to treat domestic violence as a priority matter and address urgent issues including the reform and resourcing of the family law system, legislating for image based sexual abuse (commonly but incorrectly referred to as ‘revenge pornography’), a housing policy that truly supports women and children made homeless by domestic abuse, increasing resources for specialist support services and preventing domestic homicide.

Ms Benson continues:

“Much has been done in the last number of years to address violence against women.  Such as the Domestic Violence Act 2018 and the ratification of the Istanbul treaty.  However, more needs to be done to increase protection for women and children vulnerable to abuse.  Promised laws to tackle online abuse and stalking have not materialised.  The family law system is buckling in the face of huge demand and the facilities are well below standard.”

Women’s Aid is asking for the public to make domestic abuse an urgent issue on the doorsteps.  Today, at noon, outside Dáil Éireann, Women’s Aid and their supporters will erect mock campaign posters, featuring anonymous candidates, which ask ‘Who will stand up against domestic violence?’ 

Ms Benson concludes:

“We need the public to ask their candidates key questions when they come canvassing for your votes.  Issues such as the gangland crime and the health service are to the fore of the political discussions during this election, and rightly so.  However, domestic violence is as crucial and as urgent an issue for Irish society.  We need to see real proposals to improve supports for women and children.  We need a Government and elected representatives that will transform the system tasked with providing safety and protection for victims.  As of yet, we are unaware of any party manifesto which addresses domestic violence comprehensively.”

Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 www.womensaid.ie.

Ends

Notes for editors/producers:

  • The full Women’s Aid manifesto is available here: https://www.womensaid.ie/assets/files/pdf/womens_aid_manifesto_ge2020.pdf
  • A two page summary of the manifesto is available here: https://www.womensaid.ie/assets/files/pdf/womens_aid_manifesto_summary_ge2020.pdf
  • The four questions for candidates are available here: https://www.womensaid.ie/assets/files/pdf/ask_your_candidate.pdf
  • The Gardaí statistics quoted in this report can be found here: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/domestic-homicides-far-outstrip-gangland-murder-says-commissioner-1.4107348
  • In a 2014 study entitled 'Violence against women: An EU-wide survey' by the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), it was reported that 14% of women in Ireland have experienced physical violence by a partner since age 15. 6% of Irish women have experienced sexual violence by a current or former partner and 31% of women have experienced psychological violence by a partner. 12% of Irish respondents in the FRA study had experienced stalking (including cyber stalking).
  • The FRA survey revealed that Ireland has the second highest number of women avoiding places or situations for fear of being assaulted out of all EU countries. 33% of Irish respondents thought that violence against women was very common, and 50% thought it was fairly common. 41% of Irish women know someone in their circle of family or friends who have experienced intimate partner violence (FRA, 2014).
  • 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 24hr helpline (1800 341 900, 24 hours, 7 days) with specialised trained staff and 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.)
  • The Women's Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline answered 15,835 calls in 2018. There were 721 one to one support visits and 257 court accompaniments carried out by its One to One Support Services.  An additional 591 drop-in sessions took place at the Dolphin House Support and Referral Service.  There were also 1,685 additional support calls by our One to One Services, including at Dolphin House.
  • There were 16,994 disclosures of domestic abuse to Women’s Aid Direct Services in 2018 including 11,112 disclosures of emotional abuse, 3,816 disclosures of physical abuse, 526 disclosures of sexual abuse (Including 226 disclosures of rape) and 1,540 disclosures of financial abuse.  In the same year, the organisation heard 3,728 disclosures of child abuse in the context of domestic violence.