Domestic violence charity turns away 60pc of victims
THE number of women seeking help from a domestic violence housing charity has more than doubled during the recession.
However, Sonas Housing told the Irish Independent it had to turn away almost two-thirds of women because it had no space for them.
"It is very difficult to turn women away -- the majority of women who call us are in dire, abusive situations," said chief executive Sharon Cosgrove.
"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."
Last year, Sonas supported 184 women and 234 children in its nine refuges across Dublin. This was up from 70 women and 88 children in 2009.
It also received 433 requests for a refuge place in 2010 -- however, 60pc of these were turned down as the charity's services were already running at maximum capacity.
Sonas revealed that it has seen a further 26pc increase in requests for sheltered housing in the first six months of 2011.
Ms Cosgrove, who will publish the charity's 2010 annual report today, said the surge in demand could be attributed in part to the opening of its new crisis refuge in Dublin 15 and another supported housing service in north Dublin. However, the recession also had a part to play.
"Domestic violence often increases in a recession. Increased financial pressure and/or unemployment can escalate stress and the downturn can be used as an excuse to legitimise controlling behaviours," she said.
The charity said Ireland lagged far behind European standards, which have one refuge space for each 10,000 people. By this standard, Ireland should have 424 spaces, however there are only 131.
Rachel Mullen, chairperson of Sonas, said: "It is a constant challenge to retain a level of service provision for women when there are limited resources."