A study by SAFE Ireland has found that 467 women and 229 children were receiving support for domestic violence in Ireland last November. The On Just One Day census, which was taken over a 24-hour period on November 5th, 2013, revealed that 115 women and 155 children were living in refuge centres.
Sharon O’Halloran, SAFE Ireland CEO, warns these numbers are only the “tip of the iceberg”.
“We have to as a society say this violence will not be tolerated,” she said, adding that on November 5th nearly 700 people were homeless or at risk of homelessness because their own homes weren’t safe.
“Women and children who experience domestic violence are a unique group within the homeless population, their homes are not safe,” said Ms O’Halloran.
“What we’re saying is that the homelessness legislation has to be amended and developed. We have to expand the definition of homelessness to explicitly include women and children who experience domestic violence.”
Speaking at the launch of the On Just One Day domestic violence statistics in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Ms O'Halloran called on the predominantly female audience in attendance to work with men in solving this issue.
“We need the men in our lives to work with us on this issue,” she said. “We need men to be visible and active and bring their voice to this.”
“There’s a serious under reporting in Ireland and I think it’s attached to our culture. It’s attached to stigma and shame.”
A recent EU-wide survey found up to 70 per cent of Irish women who experience sexual and physical violence do not contact support organisations. It also revealed that 26 per cent of Irish women have experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of 15.
Alice Higgins from the National Women’s Council says Ireland must sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention on domestic violence in order to support and protect Irish women suffering in their own homes.
The Convention, which will be brought into law on August 1st, 2014, is the first European treaty on violence against women and domestic violence. It requires that member states work to prevent violence, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators.
“Domestic issue tends to be a hidden issue,” said Ms Higgins. “What’s very concerning is that domestic violence support - the frontline services that people contact and access -are under huge pressure.”
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, who attended the launch, says the Government lacks the “political prioritisation” and “political will” to actually deal with the problem.
“This is not an issue of ideological or political difference across the parties, we need to get our act together,” said Ms McDonald. “Politics, Government and the system need to catch up with where decent public opinion is.”