Victims of domestic and sexual violence are calling for a register of abusers to be set up to protect women from men with a history of abuse.
They also want a more responsive Garda force; more effective legislation; and more refuges, social housing, and practical and psychological supports.
Their calls are made in a series of often harrowing replies to the Oireachtas justice committee which sought public submissions in advance of hearings on the issue in the new year.
Anne Ferris, vice-chair of the committee — which published 440 pages of the submissions yesterday to mark UN Day Opposing Violence Against Women — said she was taken aback by the number of personal tales and their harrowing content.
“Many of those very personal stories are not included in the document we are publishing today, in order to protect the innocent parties,” she said. “But their stories are in my head and in the heads of my colleagues on the committee. They have informed us greatly, they will influence the ultimate recommendations from this process, and I thank them very much for their heartfelt and heart rending accounts.”
Women’s Aid welcomed their publication and said the hearings had the potential to significantly improve the lives of the one in five women experiencing domestic violence.
Director Margaret Martin said: “We look forward to working with the committee towards this goal, and aim to give voice to the needs and experiences of the women we support through full participation in the process.”
One of the key recommendations Women’s Aid makes is for 24/7 access to emergency barring orders.
“The lack of access to legal protection when the courts are closed leaves women and children vulnerable to serious harm and further abuse overnight or over the weekend,” said Ms Martin.
The call for a register of abusers is spearheaded by the Do or Die Foundation, set up by Rita Harling, a survivor of domestic violence. “A live register can prevent tragedies,” she said. “If someone has a bad credit history they can be found on the Irish Credit Bureau’s database. If someone has a bad history of domestic abuse they can be found? Nowhere.”
Among the other groups to submit proposals were Safe Ireland, the umbrella group for refuges; the Rape Crisis Network; children’s charities; immigrant support groups who have highlighted particular difficulties for women whose residency rights are tied to their husband’s; and academics, local support groups, and individuals.
Several women wrote of the legal “nightmare” that followed their abuse, and the issue of apparent Garda inability or reluctance to act is also raised.
One woman listed 10 key moments that characterised her husband’s behaviour.
These included: “The birth of our daughter — a girl — changed everything. I can still hear that voice in my head “I never wanted her, she is a girl. No fucking use on the farm, is she?”
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