Better domestic violence law urged
Women’s Aid has appealed for an urgent review of domestic violence laws to introduce a system of emergency, out of hours access to legal barring orders.
The group is also lobbying for victims who are not living with or married to their partners to be afforded full protection under the law.
Today it launched its annual ‘One in Five Women National Balloon Action’ awareness programme at Leinster House.
It is part of the global "16 Days of Action" which begins on Sunday with the United Nations "International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women".
“We know the government with [Minister for Justice] Alan Shatter has said they will do a review of the domestic violence legislation and we welcome that but we want to see it prioritised,” Women's Aid director Margaret Martin said.
Outlining the difficulties women often face with seeking legal assistance at the weekends, she said a system to make access constantly available was paramount.
“The police will say [to a victim of domestic abuse], ok you have to get a barring order, and you need to get a refuge but the refuges are full and you have to wait Friday night, Saturday and Sunday,” she said.
“If she can get an emergency barring order and he comes back she can ring the guards immediately and they can get rid of him but she can’t do that without a barring order.”
The organisation is also appealing for some recognition of victims who are neither married to nor living with their abusers to be afforded similar protections.
This would be done “by extending eligibility for legal protection to women in dating relationships not living with their partners”.
One in five Irish women experience some form of domestic abuse, the group says.
It recently commissioned research in the area based on best international practice which, among other things, highlighted a need for greater services.
Ms Martin said the issue comes into particular focus around Christmas.
“It is a time that is very different for women because there is additional pressures,” she said.
“Alcohol isn’t the cause for abuse but it has a very serious impact on the frequency and level of it. We get a lot of calls from women saying that Christmas is a nightmare.
“What we see is an increase in contact but that doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in abuse because it may have been going on for years.”
As part of today’s One in Five campaign launch, Women’s Aid has released an online video as an interactive way for people to show support and solidarity with victims.
The video is accessed through Facebook and tells the story of a woman called ‘Lisa’ who is experiencing abuse and demonstrates the benefit and value of support from friends and services.
It is available at www.womensaid.ie.