60% of domestic abuse cases left unassisted

DEMAND for services provided by a domestic violence charity was so high last year that it could only respond to two out of five cries for help.

Domestic violence charity Sonas Housing received 433 enquiries for a crisis refuge or support housing last year, but could only cater for 40% of the demand.

It meant that 249, or 60% of all enquiries, were turned away because services were operating at full capacity.

Sonas Housing also experienced a 26% increase in the number of support housing applications received during the first half of this year.

It said the recession was linked to the number of women supported by Sonas almost trebling last year, compared with 2009.

According to its annual report, being launched today, the charity supported 184 women and 234 children last year, compared with 70 women and 88 children in 2009.

Sonas Housing opened Viva House refuge in Blanchardstown, Dublin, last year. It also operates a support housing service in Belmayne.

The need for the refuge, managed by Sonas, was identified 14 years ago. It is funded by the HSE and Fingal County Council. It houses women and their children made homeless by domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence, including sex trafficking.

A review of the women experiencing domestic violence found that 66% had mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

It also revealed almost one in four needed support for addiction and 16% needed help for both an addiction and mental health issues.

Sonas Housing chief executive Sharon Cosgrove said that it was very difficult to turn women away.

“The majority of women who call us are in dire abusive situations,” she said. “Picking up the phone to a domestic violence service can be a massive step, so it’s crushing if they do not receive a positive response.”

Ms Cosgrove stressed that making good quality services to support women experiencing domestic violence was even more important in times of recession.

“Increased financial pressure and/or unemployment can escalate stress and the economic downturn can be used as an excuse to legitimise controlling behaviours,” she pointed out.

Ms Cosgrove said the recession also leaves women trapped in domestic violence situations because of a lack of options. “This entrapment is further escalated through the lack of crisis services and specific housing and support for women and children who experience domestic violence.”

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