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Sunday 26 February 2017

Domestic violence laws ‘must be tightened to help vulnerable women’

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

The Government must toughen domestic violence legislation to fully protect vulnerable women who are victimised, campaigners have said.

Some sufferers are invisible and not protected under the current legal system, said domestic violence charity Women's Aid.

Changes needed include a 24/7 on-call system for emergency barring orders and extending the eligibility for legal protection to women dating a man and not just living with their partners, said director Margaret Martin.

Women's Aid is also calling for state funding for domestic violence services, which has dropped by 19% since 2008, to be protected in Budget 2013.

"Every day in Ireland women are beaten, raped and abused by those closest to them, their boyfriends, husbands and partners," said Ms Martin.

"One in five women in the Republic of Ireland experience domestic violence and it can affect any woman from any walk of life.

"We understand how difficult it is for women experiencing domestic abuse to talk about what is happening.

"Many women are afraid that they will not be believed or that they will blamed for the abuse. Others struggle to find the words to describe their situation.

"All too often, women feel alone and isolated, unaware that help is available or unable to make sense of what is being done to them."

Women's Aid launched a new interactive video to raise awareness about domestic violence and released balloons to mark the global 16 Days of Action Opposing Violence against Women, which runs from Sunday on the UN Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

The video encourages women to find their voice and call the Women's Aid national freephone helpline on 1800 341 900, which received 11,000 calls last year.

Ms Martin said despite recent welcomed changes, Ireland's domestic violence legislation is still in need of major reform in order to fully protect vulnerable women and children when they need it the most.

"Many thousands of women avail of legal protection every day in this country, but there is still a significant number who cannot because they are not considered under the current arrangements," she continued.

"The lack of emergency protection when courts are not sitting leaves them very vulnerable to further violence and serious harm."

She revealed how one woman attacked on a Friday night in front of her young son was forced to stay in the family home for a weekend until the courts re-opened on the Monday morning when a barring order was sought.

"That weekend was a very fearful one as her partner could return at any moment," added Ms Martin.

"This is one woman's story but it reflects the experience of many women and children affected by domestic violence in Ireland today.

"It also points clearly to the need for a 24/7 on call system to provide emergency barring orders when the courts are closed."

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