Available women’s refuge spaces inadequate, Minister accepts

Space for women and children ‘way below European recommendations’ – Women’s Aid

There were 16,994 disclosures of domestic violence against women and an additional 3,728 disclosures of child abuse to Women’s Aid last year. Photograph: iStock

There were 16,994 disclosures of domestic violence against women and an additional 3,728 disclosures of child abuse to Women’s Aid last year. Photograph: iStock

 

The State needs to provide more emergency refuge spaces for women and their children, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has acknowledged.

Ms Zappone said a new refuge that would accommodate five adults and up to 15 children was due to open in south Dublin by the end of September. She also said the women’s refuge in Rathmines would reopen later this year, having closed temporarily in September 2017.

“It is true that we need to improve access to safe and secure accommodation for women,” Ms Zappone said.

Tusla – the Child and Family Agency is undertaking research to “access and determine” the number of refuge spaces needed in the Greater Dublin Area and nationally.

“Once we have that [research], we can engage with the housing authority, the Department of Housing and also the Department of Justice to take a look at the requirements and the needs and to move forward to a way that we can start to meet more of the needs that we have now,” Ms Zappone added.

The Minister was speaking at the launch of the Women’s Aid annual report in Dublin on Wednesday. More than 19,000 contacts were made with the charity last year. These included 16,994 disclosures of domestic violence against women and an additional 3,728 disclosures of child abuse.

‘Scandalous situation’

Margaret Martin, director of Women’s Aid, said there was a “scandalous situation” in Ireland, where refuge space for women and children is “way below European recommendations”.

“When the national helpline staff and volunteers have tried to find a refuge place for women and her children, on 52 per cent of occasions the refuge was full,” she said. “This is an unacceptable situation and leaves our support workers having to tell women and their children that there is no safe place to go on too many occasions.”

One in four women who contacted the charity were experiencing abuse from a former husband or partner.

The charity met more than 1,300 women in its Dublin-based one-to-one support services.

“During these contacts women revealed the horrific abuse by their boyfriends, partners and husbands and the impact on their emotional and physical wellbeing,” Ms Martin said.

“Women were left with broken bones and teeth, bruising, head injuries and internal injuries as a result of rape. Some women experienced miscarriage because of an assault while others were experiencing post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and exhaustion.”

Ms Martin said women were increasingly being stalked online, with 561 disclosures of digital abuse and stalking made to the charity last year. There were also 898 threats to kill a woman, her children or family or to self-harm.

There were almost 4,000 reports of physical abuse, 526 disclosures of sexual abuse and more than 1,500 disclosures of financial abuse.

Explicit videos

Ms Martin said the charity had heard from women whose partners had raped them, coerced them into sex or prevented access to family planning. Some had explicit videos and images made and shared online without their consent.

“Very consistently we hear about women who are being isolated from their network of support, friends, family, colleagues and the impact of that, and that they live in fear for their lives because they will get very direct and sometimes very specific threats from their abusive partners,” she said.

“That might be threats with guns that are shown to them, with knives, other household implements all the time, and increasingly we hear about women whose partners are speeding in cars and threatening to kill them, and themselves and the children.”

Women’s Aid called for improved protections for children during access arrangements with domestic violence perpetrators.