Calls for regional shelter in West Cork to help victims of domestic violence

Women who have been victims of domestic violence in rural West Cork have called for a regional emergency shelter and for longer opening hours for a vital crisis support service.

It has also emerged that there was a spike in calls to the West Cork Women Against Violence Project’s (WCWAVP) domestic violence crisis helpline in the wake of the murders of Clodagh Hawe and her three sons, by her husband, in Cavan, late last month.

New figures also show that over 1,200 calls — almost four a day — were made last year to the West Cork agency’s crisis helpline by women in the area seeking help.

The details will be outlined at the launch in Skibbereen today of a major report commissioned to evaluate the impact and importance of WCWAVP’s services in West Cork.

Caroline Crowley, a rural development and social inclusion researcher, conducted the Someone to Turn To, Somewhere to Go evaluation report, surveying almost 40 clients of the service.

It gives a rare insight into the trauma and danger many women and children live with in West Cork, and sheds new light on the profile of those who sought help.

It shows that:

  • Victims of domestic violence were usually older, usually employed, and well educated, but could range in age from 18 to 70;
  • 70% had children living with them;
  • More than two thirds were either divorced, separated, or going through the process;
  • Many of those who contacted the service were previously unknown to social services;
  • Many had to hide or erase the phone or laptop history as they sought help.

The report also highlights the effectiveness of multi-agency co-operation and intervention by various agencies to help women and children in complex domestic violence crisis situations.

Project co-ordinator Marie Mulholland said the geographic make-up of West Cork was intensely rural, which can exacerbate the isolation, fear, and helplessness that some women, and their children, live in.

“The scourge of domestic violence will only ever be effectively addressed when we face up to its prevalence and its consequences together as a society. In the meantime, organisations like ours are the only lifeline women have,” said Ms Mulholland.

Ms Crowley’s research found that victims of domestic violence in the region would prefer a “safe house” for at-risk women in the region because accessing the city-based Edel House shelter just wasn’t feasible.

Several other surveyed women called for the crisis helpline operation hours to be extended to evenings and weekends, for more WCWAVP offices and longer opening hours, and more staff to improve accessibility to the services.

The report also showed that some 70% of women accessed the services through WCWAVP head office in Bantry, with 26% through the Skibbereen outreach office and just 4% by phone only.

Other recommendations include an increased public awareness and educational campaign to reach more potential clients, and to reduce the incidence of domestic violence, increased counselling supports, expand the number and distribution of peer support groups.

You can contact the WCWAVP helpline on 1800 203136 between 9.30am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.


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