It is a national “wake-up call” that one in five women have been abused in their relationships, said Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone.
“One in five women in Ireland who have been in a relationship have been abused, either by a former or a current partner.
“That’s a wake-up call, that’s a wake-up call for all of us in terms of our work, but particularly those of us who are governing. It’s shocking,” Ms Zappone said yesterday.
She was speaking at the launch of Women’s Aid free 24-hour helpline.
“Why is it so high? An all too common a question in relation to women who suffer from domestic violence is: ‘Why do they stay in the home?’ This question takes away from the real issue — why does he beat her?” she stated.
Women’s Aid, which had a 20% cut to its funding last year, launched the free 24-hour helpline in spite of the financial limitations.
“We’ve already answered just under 2,000 calls to the out-of-hours services (since January 2016). Women are ringing at all hours of the morning,” Linda Smith, the helpline’s manager said yesterday.
“It’s there for you when it’s safe for you to call,” she added.
Ms Smith said that breaking the cycle of abuse requires talking.
“We know that domestic violence thrives in silence and isolation.
“We also know that leaving that (abusive) relationship is a very crucial time for women and children.
“It definitely escalates the level of risk so having support services around her at that particular time to inform her of the dangers and the supports is really crucial,” Ms Smith said.
The minister, who has been a long-time advocate of women’s rights, said her background is an important element to bring to the Cabinet table.
“I’m going to speak now as a cabinet minister, the only independent woman in Cabinet and these are words that I might have referred to before when I was an advocate for these issues from a feminist perspective but now it is a great privilege to say some of these words as a minister sitting around a table with other ministers.
“Violence against women is a cultural, social and economic phenomena. It is one of the most common and yet least reported crimes in the world and the effects of domestic violence on our society are enormous and difficult to measure,” Ms Zappone said.
She also emphasised that abuse was not just physical.
“This is a feminist analysis, that it is a chronic abuse of power and it includes emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse and financial abuse,” said the minister.
Margaret Martin, who is the director of Women’s Aid, said that the organisation had to seek corporate partners in order to help fund the helpline which costs €75,000 a year to run.
“We have two people here from Peter Mark (hairdressing chain), we are their charity partner for this year. So in terms of making our helpline 24-7, we have a partnership with them,” Ms Martin stated.
She said that many letters they sent out seeking a partnership went unacknowledged.
You can text ACTION to 50300 to donate €4 to Women’s Aid.
Freephone 24-hour helpline: 1800 341 900
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