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Rise in number seeking domestic violence refuge

Applications for places at a domestic violence housing service more than doubled in two years, it was revealed today.

Sonas Housing recorded 33 requests in 2007, jumping to 61 in 2008 and 84 in 2009.

The organisation helped 70 women and 88 children last year according to its annual report.

Rachel Mullen, Sonas chairperson, said domestic violence was as prevalent as ever, crossing all class divides.

"The increase in demand for our service demonstrates how vital it is to have specific housing support services for victims of domestic violence," Ms Mullen said.

"For many families the services and support which Sonas offers are even more vital in these current times of economic hardship."

Support was provided to those dealing with the aftermath of domestic violence and advice offered in dealing with the courts to obtain safety orders.

Help was also given to women looking to get into education and work, as well as guidance on finance and living skills.

The annual report also found that many women experiencing domestic violence suffer mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Some 39pc of applicants had mental health needs, 24pc had addiction problems and 17pc had both mental health and addiction support needs.

Sharon Cosgrove, Sonas chief executive, said the findings matched other research.

"Living with systematic abuse by an intimate partner has many detrimental effects on a woman's health - both mental and physical," Ms Cosgrove said.

"A woman suffering domestic violence is in a very vulnerable position and can be prone to negative coping behaviours in order to endure her life and survive."

Sonas has supported housing in eight different areas in Dublin and in June opened its first women's refuge in the Dublin 15 area.

It provides housing for women and their children who have been made homeless due to domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence, including sex trafficking.

PA Media