Over 20,000 reports of domestic abuse made to Women's Aid last year

Over 20,000 reports of domestic abuse made to Women's Aid last year

More than 20,000 disclosures of domestic violence against women and children were made to Women's Aid last year.

In its Impact Report for 2018, the national domestic violence charity revealed that its phone helpline and Dublin-based services were contacted more than 19,000 times.

Of this, almost 17,000 disclosures of domestic violence against women were made, as well as almost 4,000 disclosures of child abuse.

One in four women who contacted the organisation were experiencing abuse from a former husband or partner.

The annual report by Women's Aid will be launched today in Dublin by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone at an event chaired by Miriam O'Callaghan.

The charity is highlighting the link between child abuse and domestic violence and is calling for greater recognition of the risk to children.

It says improved State interventions and protections are needed, especially when granting access to children for perpetrators of domestic violence.

"Immediate interim measures" to ensure that no contact is allowed until safe contact can be guaranteed, it says.

“Domestic violence is a serious crime against women and children in Irish society but one that remains hidden and minimised," said the Director of Women’s Aid, Margaret Martin.

"We are very concerned about the number of disclosures to Women's Aid of children being directly abused and exposed to domestic violence.

"It is heart-breaking to listen to women who are living in a constant state of fear for their children and themselves.

"As much as they can, women work hard to protect their children and to keep their children’s lives as safe, stable and normal as possible despite the domestic violence.

This fear is heightened when women have to facilitate access to the children for the man who has been perpetrating domestic violence. A father’s right to access should not outweigh a child’s right to safety.

Child protection and safety should be prioritised in all custody and access proceedings. To do anything less is to fail women and children," she said.

Women's Aid says that children are bearing witness to violence against their mothers, including threats, emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

They may also have overheard abusive incidents or seen the aftermath of it.

Last year, women reported that their children had experience abuse including being hit, slapped, shouted at and called names, and in some cases, sexually abused.

Women's Aid responded to 44 calls a day on its helpline, and heard that women were also experiencing financial abuse, with many saying that because of this they were being forced to choose between staying in an abusive relationship and facing poverty.

Children have been told they will be killed alongside their mothers, Ms Martin said.

The charity said that children are being put at risk by court rulings allowing access by perpetrators of domestic violence and last year heard over 483 disclosures of women being and 255 disclosures of children being abused during access visits.

"In cases where abusive ex-partners are granted access including overnight access, this increases the contact women must have with them, her anxiety, and the risk to her and the children. However, this needs to change as a matter of urgency," Ms Martin said.

Women’s Aid said that it is "imperative" that the risk posed by a perpetrator of domestic violence to the children and the impact of such abuse on them is assessed and that immediate interim measures are taken to protect the children including the rebuttal presumption of no contact until safe contact can be guaranteed.

A recent Joint Committee of Justice and Equality on Reform of the Family Law system is also criticised for failing to reach out to frontline organisations supporting victims of domestic violence through the court process.

The Impact Report contains recommendations to address this issue, including the courts ensuring that the safety of children is taken into account, the availability of experts and the training of staff in agencies that support victims of domestic violence to understand the impact of abuse on women and children.

Ms Martin also said the "scandalous situation" of insufficient refuge space for women and children needs to be addressed.

“Currently, Ireland only has one-third of emergency accommodation recommended by the Istanbul Convention and the refuge places that do exist are often full to capacity," she said.

When the National Helpline staff and volunteers have tried to find a refuge place for women and her children, on 52% occasions, the refuge was full.

"This is an unacceptable situation and leaves our support workers having to tell women and their children that there is no safe place to go on too many occasions."

You can contact Women's Aid on its 24 hour National Freephone Helpline at 1800 341 900 and can access more information on www.womensaid.ie

More on this topic

Domestic abuse among teenagers ‘rampant’, says campaignerDomestic abuse among teenagers ‘rampant’, says campaigner

There have to be consequences for bad behaviour. But I also want to believe in the power of redemptionThere have to be consequences for bad behaviour. But I also want to believe in the power of redemption

New app to connect domestic violence victims with support servicesNew app to connect domestic violence victims with support services

Women's Aid: 20,000 incidents of domestic violence against women and children in 2018Women's Aid: 20,000 incidents of domestic violence against women and children in 2018

More in this Section

More than 500 patients waiting for beds in Irish hospitals More than 500 patients waiting for beds in Irish hospitals

Gardaí resume questioning of man, 28, in relation to attempted ATM theft in CavanGardaí resume questioning of man, 28, in relation to attempted ATM theft in Cavan

Brexit and the backstop: Key questions about Boris Johnson’s letter to Donald TuskBrexit and the backstop: Key questions about Boris Johnson’s letter to Donald Tusk

Average of 129 motorists have cars clamped in Dublin every dayAverage of 129 motorists have cars clamped in Dublin every day


Lifestyle

From Turkey to Vietnam, here’s where the chef and food writer has fallen in love with on her travellers.Sabrina Ghayour’s top 5 cities for foodies to visit

Dr Dympna Kavanagh, chief dental officer, Department of Health (University College Cork graduate)Working Life: Dr Dympna Kavanagh, chief dental officer, Department of Health

Like most Irish kids of our generation, chillies, spicy food, heat were never really big aspects of our formative eating experiences.Currabinny Cooks: Getting spicy in the kitchen

New Yorker Jessica Bonenfant Coogan has noticed a curious discrepancy between east and west when it comes to Cork county; arts infrastructure has tended to be better resourced in the west of Ireland’s largest county.Making an artistic mark in East Cork

More From The Irish Examiner