Numerous agencies that deal with domestic violence and sexual abuse victims are calling on members of all parties to make the issues a priority for the next government.
Labour Senator Mairia Cahill led representatives of Women’s Aid, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and One In Four to brief members of the Dáil and Seanad at a cross-party event.
“The experts on both sexual abuse and domestic violence are the people who have suffered from it, but the experts in being able to comprehensively deal with the issue are the agencies who are on the coalface dealing with the issues day in, day out,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop welcomed the recent publication of the Government’s national strategy on domestic violence. But she warned that Ireland had “a long way to go” towards addressing the issue.
“In 2014, we accompanied 221 victims of rape and sexual assault. In 2015, we accompanied 303. That’s an increase of nearly 47pc. That is quite shocking,” she said.
Ms O’Malley-Dunlop added that she hoped to see the restoration of funding for rape crisis centres and other organisations, saying that the services are nearly at “breaking point” because of cuts implemented during the recession.
Margaret Martin of Women’s Aid said domestic violence was an issue “that’s always seen as important, but not urgent”.
“It is urgent if it’s your children, if it’s your daughter. If it is somebody you care about and you love, you need them to be protected,” she told Independent.ie.
Ms Martin also highlighted the plight of domestic violence victims who flee their homes and are caught up in the ongoing housing crisis.
“We know women who are sleeping in their cars, who are sleeping on the floors of their friends’ houses, in spare rooms,” she said. “That is no way for anybody to live.”