Friday 24 November 2017

'Gardaí are not going to play the "blame the victim" game' - New programme to tackle domestic abuse

Superintendent Finbarr Murphy of Ballymun garda station, Theresa Woods of the Drogheda Women's and Children's refuge, Sergeant Conor Ó Braonáin of Ballymun Station
Superintendent Finbarr Murphy of Ballymun garda station, Theresa Woods of the Drogheda Women's and Children's refuge, Sergeant Conor Ó Braonáin of Ballymun Station
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

Gardaí in North Dublin have launched a new 'victim centred' programme which they say will tackle domestic abuse in the community.

In a unique move, officers in Ballymun and Santry station, have now created a Domestic Abuse Coordination Team.

The plan sees ordinary officers specially trained to deal with victims of abuse.

The programme was the brainchild of Superintendent Finbarr Murphy and has been put together by Sergeant Conor Ó Braonáin.

Supt Murphy explained that the approach to domestic abuse was poor historically.

"In Ireland as a whole I think there was a culture in relation to domestic abuse. We left it within the family home if something happened within the house.

"That culture existed somewhat in the guards where we went to the house and if we resolved it in the house we left it there."

He explained that their new approach involves getting into the home where they "talk to the victim, support the victim and tell the victim that we are there to help".

Supt Murphy said their aim is to get the perpetrator into court and, if needs be, prosecute them for any criminal offence that has taken place.

Speaking at a launch in the Ballymun Axis centre this week Supt Murphy said they want people to come forward and report domestic abuse. “The guards are not going to play the 'blame the victim' game.”

He continued: “We have people now trained in Ballymun and Santry to listen empathetically to what they are saying. Our people realise that it is not always easy to come forward when you are in a relationship that is abusive."

During the launch Theresa Woods of the Drogheda Women's and Children's refuge described how in domestic abuse scenarios the perpetrator “has all the choice”, the victim has “some choice” but the children have “no choice at all”.

Supt Murphy said they aim to address that with this programme.

“What's very important here is that there are young children involved in many of these relationships. It is important that these children realise that what is happening is wrong and the guards are there to support them. The guards are there to support them and teach them that it is not okay to support them in any situation.”

Sgt Ó Braonáin, who put the programme together, explained that the domestic abuse coordination team in Ballymun garda station assigns officers to "high risk" victims of domestic abuse.

“We identify them under specific criteria, for example escalation of domestic abuse or violence, or specific threat or assault."

He said there are many benefits to having a single point of contact in helping victims.

"We have currently 13 people being coordinated and we have concluded with six as regards bring them to a satisfactory outcome. This can vary from getting a basic safety order, which can seem basic to us up to and including a partner leaving the home and the person feeling safe."

The domestic abuse coordinator provides support including: One to one meetings; court accompaniment; access to relevant services such as Women's Ad and AMEN; and they can facilitate an interpreter.

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