Ten babies born in NI women’s refuges in 12-month period

Latest report indicates that demand for services by victims of domestic violence is high

“Helpline calls and the needs of women are becoming more and more complex as the years pass.” Photograph: iStock

“Helpline calls and the needs of women are becoming more and more complex as the years pass.” Photograph: iStock

 

Women’s Aid refuges in Northern Ireland became the first home for 10 newborn babies last year, according to its annual report.

The report, which is due to be published this week, will reveal that in the year from April 2017 to April 2018, 717 women and 485 children stayed in its refuges.

Of these 717 women, 182 were ethnic-minority black women and 30 were from the Traveller community.

Some 389 women in refuges and 2,184 women in outreach identified as having a disability or complex need.

A further 285 women could not access refuges during the year because they were full.

Some

6,385 women and 6,784 children accessed outreach support allowing them to stay in their own homes.

The Women’s Aid movement in the North began in 1975 and is made up of nine local groups and Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland.

As it marks the 40th anniversary of supporting victims of domestic and sexual violence with a fund-raising gala dinner in Belfast on December 6th, the figures in its latest report indicate demand for its services are high.

Pregnancies

Statistics provided to The Irish Times indicate that 43 women were pregnant when they entered Women’s Aid refuges over the 12-month period, and 161 received outreach support during their pregnancy.

A total of 10 babies were born to women living in the refuges over the past year.

The Domestic and Sexual Violence helpline (0808-8021414), managed by Women’s Aid, handled 26,547 calls over the year, mainly from victims.

Women’s Aid Federation NI regional policy and information co-ordinator Louise Kennedy explained that it helps a broad range of people from teenagers to those over 85, with 25 per cent of women in its services under 25, and 16 per cent over 55.

“Helpline calls and the needs of women are becoming more and more complex as the years pass,” she said.

Women’s Aid could do with more funding, and would like more corporate backing, which in the past it has failed to attract because of the subject matter of its work.

“We are not a cats charity,” Ms Kennedy said. “But when we had our children’s conference in February we got corporate backing from AllState and Bank of Ireland. It showed us the time is right for that corporate social responsibility and those type of partnerships to be developed.”

Women’s Aid is examining the preliminary review from retired senior judge John Gillen on how the law deals with serious sexual offences in the wake of the trial of rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, who were acquitted of rape.

Women’s Aid is to deliver behavioural classes to Ulster Rugby’s professional and academy players that will include discussions on sexual consent.

The classes are expected to cover social life, social engagement, personal conduct and making good choices. A partnership between Ulster Rugby and Women’s Aid developed in the aftermath of the Belfast rape trial.