Lockdown highlights extent of domestic violence, McEntee says

Over 2,000 women a month used domestic violence services in March to December 2020

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee with, left, Kathrina Bentley, Men’s Aid, and Mary McDermott,  Safe Ireland, in Dublin, for Go Purple,  a new national day of awareness about domestic violence, which takes place  on Friday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee with, left, Kathrina Bentley, Men’s Aid, and Mary McDermott, Safe Ireland, in Dublin, for Go Purple, a new national day of awareness about domestic violence, which takes place on Friday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The Covid-19 lockdown has highlighted the extent of domestic violence in this country, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said.

Speaking at the launch of the Go Purple for Domestic Violence Day, Ms McEntee said the pandemic should be used as an opportunity to make people aware of the extent of the problem and the supports available to victims.

The event was one of the Minister’s last public engagements before she takes maternity leave next week. She will take six months’ paid leave from April 30th, while Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys will take on the justice portfolio.

“We’ve asked people to stay at home for the best part of a year. While for me home is a safe place and a sanctuary, for a lot of people we know it’s not,” Ms McEntee said.

Lockdown had exacerbated the problem of domestic violence, much as it has in other European countries, she said.

On average, more than 2,000 women and 500 children a month received support from domestic violence services from March to December 2020. This includes 6,000 women and 1,100 children who sought support for the first time.

Domestic violence charities have expressed concern these numbers will increase further as the country begins to open up over the coming months

Go Purple Day

Go Purple for Domestic Violence Day will see municipal buildings lit up purple across the country this Friday. People are also being asked to wear purple, dye their hair purple or bake purple cakes to show their support for survivors of domestic violence and frontline workers.

Many local domestic violence services have set up local fundraising platforms for the day.

“The colour purple is often associated with strength, nobility, creativity, wisdom, dignity, peace, love and independence. It is a colour which also aptly represents the expert, dedicated, and long-term work of frontline domestic violence [workers] supporting survivors along an often fraught and complex journey from abuse and entrapment to freedom and safety,” said organisers Safe Ireland.

The initiative is also supported by Men’s Aid. Ms McEntee said there needed to be a greater focus on male victims of domestic violence.

She pointed to figures stating up to one in seven men have been a victim of domestic violence but only 5 per cent of official reports come from men.

“It’s an issue that’s more prevalent against women and families. But it’s very much there with men as well. The approach needs to be victim centric. It can’t just be about men or women.

“The more we talk about it, the more we encourage men to come forward.”

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the Women’s Aid Helpline is 1800 341 900. Men’s Aid can be contacted at 01 554 3811.