The director of Women’s Aid has described the #MeToo campaign, where people allege offensive or abusive behaviour they have experienced, as a “healthy movement.”
Some commentators call the movement a “witch hunt” because the accused are exposed by media and not tried in court, but Margaret Martin says offensive behaviour has been normalised for too long in society.
“One of the things about what’s happening now is more and more woman are starting to talk and it’s almost like a tidal wave,” said Ms Martin.
“If you think of how much secrecy and shaming of women there has been fo decades and decades — a lot of highly inappropriate and offensive and abusive behaviour has been normalised. It is kind of accepted by men as being something they’re entitled to, and by other men, even if they’re not doing it, they never call it or challenge it or say anything about it.
“Now women are starting to talk about it and the impact that has had on them in terms of their careers, in terms of their safety, their well-being and their bodily integrity and their own peace of mind - that is a really, really important development. This is a healthy movement.”
Ms Martin was speaking at the start of 16 Days of Action Opposing Violence Against Women, which runs from November 25 to December 10.
Women’s Aid launched their Femicide (women killed by their partner) Watch 2017 report last Friday, showing 216 women have died violently in Ireland since 1996, 137 of them in their own home.
Ms Martin said femicide is at the end of a spectrum of abuse, which begins with “cat-calling”.
She said: “I know as a child, I’m old enough to have paid my bus fare to a bus conductor, and some bus conductors would have held on to your hand for too long and you would have felt physically awful about it but it was very hard to articulate it so you ended up not knowing what to say, not knowing how to articulate this and it may then be one of your uncles.
“That’s the environment women are operating in. Those things at the lower end of the scale all support things that are more extreme.”
Missy Collins, from Pavee Point Travellers Centre and who attended the launch of the report, said Traveller women encounter discrimination when it comes to seeking support from the State when they experience domestic abuse.
“I have to say, first of all, with a Traveller, even to go through the courts to get a barring order is a big struggle for a Traveller,” said Ms Collins. “Then when they get the barring order and the police are called out to that address, how long does it take them to come? I timed it. It took four hours for the guards to come out to that address.
“We’ll put it this way — you could be dead and buried in the time [it takes]. It’s discrimination with us.”
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