Women ‘regularly’ threatened with firearms by abusive partners, Women’s Aid says

Charity says problem is raised on its helpline often, especially in rural areas

Abusive partners threatening women with firearms is an issue that is ‘regularly’ coming up on the Women’s Aid 24-hour helpline, the charity has said.  File photograph: Getty Images

Abusive partners threatening women with firearms is an issue that is ‘regularly’ coming up on the Women’s Aid 24-hour helpline, the charity has said. File photograph: Getty Images

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Abusive partners threatening women with firearms is an issue that is “regularly” coming up on Women’s Aid 24-hour helpline, the charity has said.

Sarah Benson, chief executive of the organisation, said it had been concerned about the matter for “many years” and it was “particularly acute” in isolated rural areas.

Ms Benson’s comments come after a woman told Dublin District Family Court last week that she feared for her life after her ex-partner turned up at her home with a gun.

The woman was granted an interim barring order against the man on an ex-parte basis (one side only represented) by Judge Gerard Furlong on Wednesday.

A full hearing, where both parties are expected to attend, has been set for next month.

“We have been concerned about the use of firearms by abusive partners to harm and to threaten women, for many years,” Ms Benson said.

“It is an issue that comes up on the Women’s Aid 24-hour national freephone helpline regularly. The presence of firearms in the home is a key factor when assessing risk to the woman by An Garda Síochána and domestic violence support services.”

Ms Benson said that in urban settings it is usually a case of illegal guns being accessible by the perpetrator of domestic abuse and “used to threaten the women and in some cases, the children, at home”.

“The issue is particularly acute in isolated rural areas where legally held weapons can be stored at home and used to intimidate and threaten. Often abusers use firearms while threatening to kill the woman, the children and/or himself,” she added.

‘Deeply worrying’

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns said “this is clearly a topic that needs examining”.

“If there are cases of known or suspected incidents of domestic violence and the perpetrator has access to a firearm, that’s a deeply worrying situation,” the Cork South-West TD said.

“Unfortunately, the recent use of firearms in tragic cases with fatal consequences has to be a wake-up call. We tend to think of gun-related deaths as something that happens elsewhere, like the US. Instead we need to have a serious conversation about firearms in society.

“The figures on gun ownership are much higher than people might expect. There are over 200,000 licensed firearms in the country, the majority of which are shotguns.”

In the case heard before the family court last week, the woman said in a sworn statement, “I’m fearing for my life” as her ex-partner “has come to my house with a gun”.

She said on a separate occasion he kicked her front door in. The woman said her former partner was “on hard drugs” and sometimes came to her home late at night.

“Sometimes I cannot sleep,” she said.

The woman said she had to pay hundreds of euro to get CCTV installed at her home, and on another occasion the man “climbed in my window during the night”.

She said her former partner had been charged in relation to the incidents and had broken bail conditions that require him to stay away from her home. The woman said was advised by gardaí to get a barring order against the man.