Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said little has changed in relation to domestic abuse since she worked as a social care worker 30 years ago.
“When I started working 30 years ago as a social worker in Dublin and then in London, I came across my first cases [and] experiences of child sexual abuse and domestic violence. I still remember the shock and the horror that I felt,” said Ms Fitzgerald.
“When I went on to become chair of the National Women’s Council of Ireland I thought that as time went on, the situation would change, as women became more empowered, as we spoke about these things in public, as education services got better, that the incidences of perhaps both child sexual abuse and domestic violence would decrease.
“I think that was probably my expectation — that if you did the right things and if the organisations that were out there, supporting women and children, were empowered to do what the likes of Women’s Aid have been doing, that the situation would change and I’m sure that you, like me, when you see the Impact Report, are appropriately shocked at how terrible the situation remains and how many incidences of domestic violence and child sexual abuse remain,” she said.
Ms Fitzgerald was speaking yesterday at the launch of Women’s Aid’s annual Impact Report. She described the fact that almost half of domestic abuse incidences happened in marriages as a wake-up call for society.
“What we see is that for the women who contacted Women’s Aid in 2015, marriage remained the most common context for domestic violence and I think we are often in denial about that,” said Ms Fitzgerald.
“Forty-two percent of women who were abused were in marriages, another quarter were abused by ex-husbands or ex-partners, that’s a real wake-up call I think for Irish society, to look again at the issue of domestic violence and to interrupt it and to support the women who are the victims and support the services.”
Ms Fitzgerald made particular reference to the impact of financial abuse on a victim.
“There was a time when people didn’t actually believe there was such a thing as financial abuse. I heard Margaret [Martin, director of Women’s Aid] on Morning Ireland
earlier today, talking about the manifestations of that, which can be completely controlling and abusive,” she said.
Ms Fitzgerald said we need to educate society to prevent abuse.
“You keep thinking that the information campaign of the generation before or the decade before has actually worked and then you find that actually it is about doing it again and again and again and continuing the education and continuing the empowerment, continuing the training.
So it is an ongoing challenge for our society,” she said.
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