Monday 18 December 2017

24/7 on-call system could save lives of abused women, charity claims

Sarah Stack, Press Association

A review of domestic violence laws could change the lives of the one in five women abused at the hands of a partner, a charity claimed.

Women's Aid has called for a 24/7 on-call system for emergency barring orders so women in Ireland can be protected by the courts when they most need it.

Margaret Martin, director of Women's Aid, said the move would make a difference to the safety of women and children.

"We know from women using our support services that 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," she said.

"At a time of diminishing funding and resources, we see domestic violence refuges operating at capacity, and when there is no space in refuge this presents a major barrier for women fleeing dangerous abuse in the home.

"Emergency barring orders increase the chances that women and children can remain safe in their own homes.

"It can mean the difference between staying securely at home with legal protection and sleeping in a car or sleeping rough."

The idea was one of several measures put to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, which will later publish more than 40 submissions it received in relation to domestic and sexual violence.

The publication coincides with UN Day Opposing Violence Against Women, the start of the International 16 Days of Action Opposing Violence Against Women, and Women's Aid One in Five Women campaign.

Ms Martin said an extension of eligibility for safety and protection orders to groups like non-cohabiting parents with a child last year resulted in a 34% increase in applications for safety orders and 23% in applications for protection orders.

"Many thousands of women avail of legal protection every year in this country, but there is still a significant number who are unable to access protection," she added.

Elsewhere Pavee Point and the Roma Centre launched leaflets outlining supports for women in Traveller and Roma communities who are victims of domestic violence.

Tessa Collins, of Pavee Point, said she was disappointed with the stereotyping of Traveller and Roma men as perpetrators of domestic violence.

"Domestic violence happens in all classes and all communities," said the senior community development worker. It is something that everyone should be taking seriously.

"It is not more prevalent in Traveller and Roma communities, but members of our communities find it extremely difficult to access services and supports to help them leave a violent relationship."

The leaflets, which are available in English, Romanian and Slovak, will increase awareness of information about supports and services.

Laura Pohjolainen, co-ordinator of the violence against women programme, said Traveller and Roma women face obstacles when attempting to seek help.

"There is a problem with structural inequality and poverty, a lack of trust in services due to previous experiences of discrimination as well as shame and stigma associated with disclosing domestic violence," she added.

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