Traveller women 'shocked' at research into rape and abuse


TRAVELLER WOMEN were “shocked” to discover emotional abuse and rape within marriage constituted domestic violence, new research has revealed.

In the first survey of its kind, the 2007 Research on Domestic Violence and Traveller Women was unveiled yesterday in Tullamore, Co Offaly. The data was collected by members of the Travelling community.

Biddy Kavanagh from the Tullamore Travellers Movement told the Domestic Violence Awareness conference: “They see violence as just hitting and that was the only violence they see. They were totally shocked . . . they thought husbands couldn’t rape their wives.”

Ms Kavanagh conducted the research with three focus groups comprising 60 women. “It was the first time this sort of data was done,” she explained.

“If I hadn’t been a Traveller woman doing that sort of research I don’t think we would have gotten the facts,” she added.

According to the research, women who suffer abuse within the community are most likely to seek assistance from a priest and there is a lack of knowledge as to the services available.

It also found Traveller women were more likely to use women’s refuges for respite rather than an escape route or a preventive measure. Ms Kavanagh said she came across some women who had used refuges for respite for 30 years. “They used them . . . to let him calm down or whatever.”

She claimed it was difficult for women from an insular community to break away, even when they were suffering from abuse.

As a result of the research, Tullamore Traveller Movement has made a number of recommendations. It suggests cultural awareness training for those at support agencies and women’s refuges, the training of Traveller women as support workers and the provision of accommodation for Traveller children caught in domestic violence.