Surge in domestic violence blamed on the recession
THE recession is heightening family tensions and is contributing to a dramatic rise in domestic violence.
The number of women accessing domestic violence services soared by 43pc to 7,400 in the period 2007-2009, new figures reveal.
Women's support groups last night said financial worries brought about as a result of mortgage arrears and rising unemployment were a major factor in the rise.
"The recession is definitely putting more pressure on families and affecting the figures," Safe Ireland director Sharon O'Halloran said.
"It is not causing the problem but it is exacerbating it."
The new report by Safe Ireland showed that on one single day last year -- November 4 -- 182 women and 247 children were in refuge or transitional housing and a further six women could not be accommodated because there was not enough space.
On the same day, 368 women and 291 children were accommodated or received support from a domestic violence service.
Dr Sarah Morton, Safe Ireland's service development manager, said the recession was also changing the face of the type of abuse women were presenting with.
"Prior to the recession, women were mainly coming to shelters after suffering sexual violence but that has changed in the past couple of years," she said. "More and more are trapped in violent relationships where a spouse keeps money from them."
Dr Morton also cited a case she encountered last week when a woman came to a refuge because she and her abusive husband were unable to sell their home.
"She contributed to the deposit for the house and the husband is also withholding social welfare money from her."
But as the number of domestic violence cases increases, essential supports and options to help women and children are being cut, she added.
Safe Ireland also urged the Government not to introduce any more cuts to services.
The Health Services Executive provides 80pc of these services, but the budget has been cut by 7pc in the past year.
Speaking at the launch, Environment Minister John Gormley insisted "protecting this budget will be a priority".