Covid brings home dangers of domestic violence this Christmas

More funds are needed to support families dreading what the season will bring

There has never been a more important time to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 days of international activism which follow. Photograph: iStock

There has never been a more important time to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 days of international activism which follow. Photograph: iStock

 

What type of Christmas will Ireland have? Will we be able to gather with loved ones, buy gifts and socialise with Covid-19 among us? What will festivities look like? These are questions many of us are pondering as we head into December. Yet in many households the season brings fear, dread and danger.

Mounting bills, increased drinking and more time at home has always made Christmas and New Year very difficult for those who live in the shadow of domestic violence. This year the addition of pandemic restrictions makes it even more so.

Whatever decisions the Government makes on restrictions as we approach the holiday, it seems clear we will all be spending more time at home. When that is spent with an abuser, then it means mental torture and fear waiting for the next outburst, which can cause physical harm.

Denise Charlton is chief executive of the Community Foundation for Ireland

This toxic combination of holidays and restrictions makes International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (Wednesday, November 25th) and the 16 days of action which follow more important than ever.

Recognising the dangerous impact of Covid-19 and its restrictions, the United Nations has designated the theme for this year’s campaign as “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”

High-profile buildings and landmarks will be “oranged” to raise awareness, while the United Nations has also again noted that the Sustainable Developments Goals simply cannot be achieved without ending violence against women.

As it pledges to “leave no-one behind”, it is notable that the UN in its theme has identified priority number one as “fund – a stark reminder that nothing can really be achieved unless money is in place. It is a hard reality that fine words of both condemnation and support around the well-documented rise in domestic violence throughout 2020 will achieve nothing on their own.

Awareness campaigns

Initiatives need support. Helplines and refuges must be paid for. Awareness campaigns are not cheap. Research to identify strategic, sustainable and long-term solutions are costly.

While the Government has recognised that the restrictions and lockdowns have created a crisis and responded with substantial funding, much of it is going on firefighting measures aimed at getting us through an emergency.

Yet despite this generosity, demand for support continues to far outweigh the resources which are available.

At the Community Foundation for Ireland, we are providing about €15 million in grants to volunteers, communities and charities – including those in the frontline of domestic violence – this year. This money is being made available through private and corporate donations as well as legacies through individuals and families.

The recent Giving Ireland report found that gifts to charities in excess of €5,000 account for just 1 per cent of donations in Ireland

Safe Ireland, Women’s Aid and Men’s Aid are among those who have received emergency funding through this route.

Our donors are proud to support these and other organisations.

However, the area of philanthropy remains largely untapped in this country and we believe there is a lot more support out there which can be used.

The recent Giving Ireland report found that gifts to charities in excess of €5,000 account for just 1 per cent of donations in Ireland. Yet in New Zealand, a very similar country in terms of population, urban-rural divide and social and economic make-up, the percentage is 33 per cent.

The Women’s Aid national freephone line has answered over 4,000 calls since March this year
Over the past few months the stark reality of the dangers faced within many family homes has been brought to the fore like never before. File photograph: iStock

The reason for the gap is New Zealand has embraced, nurtured and encouraged philanthropy, gift-giving and legacies through its tax code.

The same analysis also showed that philanthropy, and in particular legacies left through wills, are the most cost-effective ways of fundraising for communities and charities.

Match funding

Another area where Ireland can do a lot more is match funding. Research, awareness campaigns and strategic responses could be supported through a combination of public and private monies.

This approach has been championed by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. It is being used to respond to social justice issues, climate change and, more recently, the reopening of small businesses in the UK capital.

If we are to ensure that the scourge of violence and abuse is removed from Irish homes forever, then we need to harness that focus and energy and think long-term

Over the past few months the stark reality of the dangers faced within many family homes has been brought to the fore like never before. There has never been a more important time to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 days of international activism which follow.

It is a period that requires more than solidarity and awareness – it also requires strategic thinking. To look at the longer term as well as responding to the immediate emergency.

This requires looking at our resources and seeing how we can move to public and private funding working together to have a bigger impact. For example, this could include the delivery of multi-annual funding, which charities and communities need for sustainable, strategic and long-term planning. Such planning in turn leads to solutions and answers.

The next 16 days will give us focus. If we are to ensure that the scourge of violence and abuse is removed from Irish homes forever, then we need to harness that focus and energy and think long-term. As we hopefully begin to emerge from the pandemic and the restrictions, we look forward to the day when we can truthfully say that never again will families be left open to such danger.

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