Domestic violence groups urge halt to cuts


Domestic violence groups have warned the Government to stop cuts to services as new figures show a 56 per cent increase in women looking for help in the last five years.

Nearly 8,000 women and more than 3,000 children got help with domestic violence last year, a 15 per cent jump on the 2010 figures, according to Safe Ireland, which represents refuges and other services.

Services have seen a €4.5 million cut since 2008, said Sharon O’Halloran, chief executive of the organisation.

“If there are any more cuts, services will be closing,” she said.

By putting pressure on refuges and other help centres, the Government was running up costs to its other services, such as hospitals, which people were accessing instead, she added.

Almost 5,000 women and children were unable to get into refuges because they were full or nonexistent in an area in 2011.

There are 141 beds for women in refuges in the State, which is a third of what human rights watchdog the Council of Europe recommends, she added.

Refuge lying idle

Ms O’Halloran urged the Government to open a refuge that is lying idle in Kildare town because no staff have been appointed to run it. “Since January, 63 women and 134 children have been turned away from this refuge,” she said.

Last year just under 4,000 women and children were admitted to refuges while more than 42,000 helpline calls were answered.

Ms O’Halloran said more people were accessing services because there was better information about what help was available. But she said the figures were still “the tip of the iceberg”.

“There are terrible crimes being committed in homes and they are largely undocumented,” she said.

Safe Ireland has begun a campaign to focus on men who are violent towards women and children in the home.

Ms O’Halloran also called on the Government to show leadership as it took over the EU presidency in January by signing the UN convention on domestic violence.

Case study: ‘It nearly became normal’

Marie’s abuse began with emotional and verbal abuse, and then her partner began hitting her.

“It nearly became normal. I realised I had to leave before things got worse and I became a news headline,” she says.

She says there are taboos around admitting to a problem in the home which stops people from talking to family or friends or seeking help. “People think if you’re in a violent relationship you must be nuts, a drinker or on drugs,” she said. “It was quite scary. I kept it to myself for a long time.”

After she had a child she decided the violence had to stop. She began to confide in friends who encouraged her to confront her partner. Eventually he left the home. “It wasn’t that I thought my child would be at risk but I didn’t want him growing up thinking that kind of behaviour was normal,” she says.

She rang Women’s Aid once but never rang back.

She says women need more information on the help available.

“I don’t think it’s public enough for people. There should be leaflet drops, there should be information in every library, every GP’s office,” she says.

Any woman facing a similar situation should not dwell on it but seek help, says Marie. “Make the phone call and get advice on a safety plan, barring order or where to go.”

Women’s Aid national freephone helpline 10am - 10pm: 1800 341 900