THE number of people accessing the refuge provided by Clare Haven Services during the Covid-19 pandemic was four times higher than the reported incidence of domestic abuse to gardai, The Clare Champion can reveal.
Figures released to by Justice Minister Heather Humphreys to Deputy Michael McNamara show the incidence of domestic abuse crime and non-crime incidents that were reported to the Clare Garda Division increased by 5% from 638 in the period April 2019 to March 2020 to 670 between April 2020 to March 2021.
Crime incidents include any incident with a recorded motive of “domestic abuse”. Non-crime incidents are of the PULSE incident type “domestic dispute – no offence disclosed”.
Clare Haven Services manager, Dr Siobhan O’Connor has confirmed there was a 21% increase in the number of people accessing their refuge from December 2019 to December 2020, which covers a large portion of the Covid-19 pandemic.
There was also a similar hike in the number of people using the Clare Haven helpline during this period. Dr O’Connor said a significant number of people would self-refer to their services, while others would be referred by other agencies and not the gardai.
“Some service users will approach the gardai and make statements and some will choose not to do this. Domestic abuse is a very personal journey. People navigate through that journey in many different ways. For some people legal remedies are necessary such as safety protection or barring orders and in some cases criminal proceedings are issued.
“Sometimes these things happen after a woman has time to reflect after she has the time to make herself and her family safe before she may decide to contact the gardai. In some cases, legal remedies for justice are taken by women later along their journey.”
Asked about the increase in domestic violence in Clare during the pandemic, she stressed there is no excuse for engaging in domestic violence, which was a choice made by the perpetrator.
She said the increase shows the importance of having services like Clare Haven available at a localised specialised level and the complexity of domestic abuse, as survivors need a selection of choices and supports.
“There is no one size fits all. We are very lucky in Clare to have services in Clare thanks to the hard work of Clare Haven founders, staff and donations from the public. People in North Tipperary have no refuge and have to travel a long distance to South Tipperary.
“Clave Haven gets great support from local gardai, it’s very important this support is available when a woman needs to reach out to the gardai. It is also important that a woman is believed, even if she comes forward to report an incident of domestic abuse a month or a few years later, and she is not challenged about the timing of her complaint.”
Deputy Michael McNamara has requested the government to provide multi-annual funding to organisations like Clare Haven Services, who provide vital services for people who have been affected by domestic violence.
The Independent Deputy stressed there is an onus on the state to ensure these organisations have adequate resources to provide the necessary supports to assist people who have suffered from domestic violence.
“Domestic violence isn’t going to end in 2021 and unfortunately it will be a social problem over the coming years. Clare Haven Services will have to provide a service for people who are affected by domestic violence next year and for a number of years after this. It is very hard for a service to plan on the basis of annual rather than multi-annual funding.
“The fact Clare Haven Services continued to provide a service throughout the pandemic with all the difficulties this entailed is commendable.”
Deputy McNamara said recent official statistics released by the Department of Justice concerning the increase in applications for protection and safety orders illustrated the level of domestic violence is much higher than reported incidents to garda.
In response to Deputy McNamara’s question, Minister Humphreys stated funding of approximately €4.1 million to support victims of crime and approximately €3 million for raising awareness of domestic, sexual and gender based violence has been secured under budget 2021.
These figures reflect the additional €2.3 million provided for the implementation of Supporting a Victim’s Journey.
In addition to this, the Covid-19 specific funding, which is available to help organisations cope with the challenges in delivering their services to victims of crime, including victims of domestic, sexual based violence, has been increased to €400,000 for 2021.
Operation Faoiseamh was established by the gardai to ensure victims of domestic abuse are supported and protected that any domestic abuse incidents receive the highest priority response.
By Dan Danaher