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Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence : A Rising Problem Hidden Behind Our Doors By Annette Dunlea

The Crime Council Of Ireland’s Report entitled Domestic Abuse of Women and Men in Ireland survey indicates that 1,667 women listed themselves as victims of abuse in the last five years and 1,363 men.In 2003 we had 8,452 Domestic Violence incidents reported to the gardai.Only one in five of those experiencing severe abuse actually report it to the Gardaí.Women who have experienced domestic abuse are more likely than men who have experienced severe abuse to report it to the Gardaí (29 per cent versus five per cent). The survey suggests that in the region of 213,000 women and 88,000 men in Ireland have been severely abused by a partner at some point in their lives.
Almost 900 women and children were accommodated in, or needed some kind of support from, domestic violence services in just one 24-hour period in 2009, new figures have shown.Women and children are suffering at the hands of a violent partner are feeling the brunt of cuts on statutory agencies.Domestic violence is where one person tries to control and assert power over their partner in an intimate relationship. It can be physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse or financial abuse. In the majority of cases it is perpetrated by men and experienced by women. Domestic violence can also occur between family members, between same sex couples and be perpetrated by women against men.Any woman can be affected and it can happen in any home. There may be warning signs that your relationship is abusive.Be aware for even one of these warning signs: you are afraid of your partner, you are constantly ‘walking on eggshells’ because of his mood swings,you spend your time working out what kind of mood he is in and the focus is always on his needs. He loses his temper easily and over minor things, he has hit you or almost hit you and/or your children or your partner has been abusive in a previous relationship. He criticises your family and friends and/or makes it difficult for you to see them or talk to them on your own. He calls you names and threatens you and/or your children. He is jealous and accuses you of flirting and having affairs. He regularly criticises or undermines you in front of other people – including about the way you look, dress, and/or your abilities as a mother. Your needs are not considered important or are ignored, and he makes the decisions in the relationship. You find it hard to get time on your own. When you do spend time away from him, he demands to know where you were and who you were with. He controls your access to basic essentials such as the car, the family finances, food, the telephone and internet. He has forced you to do something that you really did not want to do. He has forced you to have sex with him or with other people. He has made you participate in sexual activities that you were uncomfortable with. He has threatened to have you deported because of your immigration status. He tries to control aspects of your life such as whether you work, and where; who you see and when; what you can spend; what you can wear; what you watch or listen to on the radio or television.Recognising that you are being abused is an important step.your safety and that of your children is always your priority.Safe Ireland emphasised that children who have experienced domestic violence ‘live in a world that has been turned upside down, their social and learning development devastatingly impacted upon’.
Domestic violence is a crime. If you area being subjected to violence in your own home, you can avail of legal protection through the courts. Legally you can apply for a barring or safety order from the District Court.A Barring Order requires that the violent person leave the family home. It also prohibits the violent person from using or threatening to use violence against you and/or any dependent children. The court can direct the respondent not to attend at or in the vicinity of, or watch the place where the applicant and dependents reside. A Safety Order prohibits the abuser from further violence or threats of violence. It does not oblige the violent person to leave the family home. If the abusive person does not live with you, the Safety Order prohibits them from being in the vicinity of or watching your home.You do not need legal representation for your initial application stage. But it is highly recommended that you have legal representation for full hearings.For ex-parte cases (for a protection or interim barring order) you just need to attend in person. You will need to mention any evidence you have for the full hearing – this includes reports from GPs, hospitals or the Gardaí.You must also bring proof of identity such as a passport or driver’s license.While you are waiting for a court hearing, the court may protect you with an order which lasts only until the date of the hearing.There are two ways the court can protect you while you wait for your hearing:Protection Order or an Interim Barring Order.If he/she breaks the barring order call your local garda station.Women who are or were in dating relationship and who never lived with their boyfriends are not currently eligible for protection.If this is the case seek legal advice.The Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, for example means it a criminal offence to stalk or harass another person, so criminal charges may be brought against the abusive party.
Leaving an abusive relationship can be fraught with difficulty and may not be the best option for you at a particular point. If you plan to stay in the relationship, there are certain precautions you can take. Keep a phone in a room that locks from the inside and memorise all emergency numbers, carry a mobile phone, decide and plan where you will go if you do leave home, make up a code word to let the children, friends, family, or a neighbour that you’re in trouble and need help, if it is safe to do so, keep a handbag/overnight bag with important phone numbers and items in a place where you can grab it if you need to leave in a hurry.If you are attacked and are in immediate danger cCall the Gardaí 999/112 when you can and leave the building , if possible. When one is preparing to leave have a plan.If you do plan to leave, decide when and where you will go.You may have to confide in your children that it may be necessary to leave home at some point in the future. Make sure they are old enough to understand that this must be kept secret and reassure them that you have plans for how to protect them but that you need their co-operation. You may be able to plan an escape route and teach it to your children. Agree a code word to signal to your children that it’s time to leave NOW. If you can, open a savings account in your own name to establish and increase your financial independence. Identify who will let you and your children stay with them or lend you some money. Leave money, extra keys, and copies of important documents and clothes with someone you trust. Review your safety plan with Women’s Aid or someone who is supporting you.If you do leave, try to bring the essentials, especially documents that may be hard to retrieve later. But remember the most important thing is getting to safety.The main items you should take are :money, clothing identification (driver’s license, passport, birth certificates for yourself and your children) , medication, ATM, credit and debit cards , keys to your car, home, and office, your children’s favourite toys or blankets.Other useful items include:health insurance information, social welfare documentation, school and medical records, welfare ID or work permits, housing documents such as a lease, deed, or mortgage payment statements, financial records, marriage license, protective orders, custody papers , immigration papers and sentimental items such as photos or favourite books.
Keep in touch with Women’s Aid or your local domestic violence service. They will help you plan your safety as your circumstances change. Get an unlisted phone number and caller ID .Screen calls with an answering machine. Save all messages that are threatening or which violate a domestic violence order. Open new accounts in your name only. Avoid staying home alone, and vary your daily routine : change your commute to work, and don’t frequent the same bank or supermarket too often. If you have to meet your partner, try to do it in a public place. Women’s Aid will address these issues with you during a safety plan session. Prepare your children so they know what they should do if they see the abuser, and let their teachers know that you are the only one authorised to pick up your children from school. You could try to make sure that no one at the children’s school gives out you contact information. Let your supervisor at work know about your situation, and arrange protective measures there, too. This may include not going to lunch alone, asking a colleague to walk with you to the car or bus stop. You may also give your supervisor a photo of the abuser in case of a confrontation at work.
Once victims leave their perpetrator, they can be stunned with the reality of the extent to which the abuse has taken away their autonomy.In addition to lacking financial resources, victims of Domestic Violence often lack specialized skills, education, and training that are necessary to find gainful employment, and also may have several children to support.There are over forty domestic violence support services in Ireland for women and their children, 21 of these services provide refuge accommodation. In Cork we have Cuanlee Refuge, Co. Cork and its /Helpline is 021 4277 698 and it also operates a website www.cuanleerefuge.org and an email at cuanleerefuge@hotmail.com.
Help is also available from The Women’s Aid National and you can Freephone their Helpline at 1800 341 900. Women’s Aid is a leading national organisation that has been working to address the issue of domestic violence in Ireland for more than 35 years.They offer one to one support service, court accompaniment service, referral to local refuges and support services. Every day in Ireland women are raped, beaten, and trapped in their own homes by those closest to them – their boyfriends, husbands and partners. For most of us, home is a place of respect, love and safety. But for one in five women in Ireland, home can also mean violence, fear and abuse.Safe Ireland’s one-day census for November 4th 2010 showed that 555 women and 324 children were accommodated or received support from a domestic violence service in just one day.Annual statistics for 2010, showed that, in total, 7,235 women and 2,850 children received support from a Safe Ireland member service.As a hidden and invisible crime the importance of giving public voice to the experiences of domestic violence is well evidenced across research.Family and friends need to be viligant as victims are isolated , conrolled and terrified for their lives and their kids safety.The statistics show the harsh reality of the problem in Ireland in 2009 7,512 individual women received support from Domestic Violence Support Services in Ireland.734,332 Irish citizens rang the domestic violence helplines for advice.There were 4,197 children admissions to refuges in 2009.The Cork refuge centres are: Cork Cuanlee Refuge, Cork City (includes 24 hour refuge) 021 4277698.Cork Mna Feasa,, Women’s Domestic Violence Project, Knocknaheeny, Cork City 021 4211757.Cork OSS, Cork City 1800 497 497, Cork West Cork Against Violence Against Women, Bantry 1800 203 136.Cork Yana, North Cork Domestic Violence Project, Mallow 022 53915.
We rarely hear of the plight of the battered man.Recent UK statstics show that more than 40% of domestic violence victims are male.Data from Home Office statistical bulletins and the British Crime Survey show that men made up about 40% of domestic violence victims each year between 2004-05 and 2008-09, the last year for which figures are available. In 2006-07 men made up 43.4% of all those who had suffered partner abuse in the previous year, which rose to 45.5% in 2007-08 but fell to 37.7% in 2008-09. If Ireland is a truely equal country men should be given the same rights of women but they are not.Men can also apply to the district court for barring or protection orders. AMEN is a voluntary group, founded by Mary Cleary in December 1997, which provides a confidential helpline, a support service and information for male victims of domestic abuse. Thousands of men and supportive members of their families have contacted the helpline since it was set up.In law, a male victim faces two obstacles; firstly to prove he is a victim, and secondly, to ensure that his children are protected and do not become the new victims. Men very often remain in an abusive relationship for the sake and protection of their children.Even when a man has proved he is the victim it seems his only course of action is to leave the home. He is then separated from his children and often experiences difficulty in obtaining realistic and regular contact with them. He is in fact treated as the perpetrator rather than the victim. Society seems to want these men to go away because there is no simple solution to their plight and there are no support systems in place to deal with them.Male victims can contact Amen for support. They are located at St. Anne’s Resource Centre, Railway Street,Navan, Co. Meath. Their helpline is telephone: 046 9023 718 or they can be emailed at info@amen.ie. It is essential that people suffering from this type of acts of brutality come forward and report them to the authorities, so that the people exercising their power over them, can be punished.Noticing and acknowledging the warning signs and symptoms of domestic abuse is the first step to ending it. No person should live in fear of another person. There is help available.
What should you do if a friend or relative is in a violent relationship?Encourage them to talk and be informed go with them to the local library and study the services available to them via the internet or telephone directory. Really listen to what they tell you and keep an open mind.Give them the support they need. Tell them that no one deserves to be threatened or beaten, despite what their abuser has told them. Nothing they can do or say can justify the abusers behaviour. Focus on their strengths.Give your friend the emotional support they need to believe they are a good person.
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