CLARE’s Oireachtas members need to address deficits in services for people who have suffered from various forms of abuse as highlighted by South Galway mother-of-three Sourney Linnane.
That’s according to Clare Haven manager, Dr Siobhan O’Connor, who stressed it is vital that the voices of women who suffered from coercive control and other forms of domestic abuse must be heard and addressed in the formation of a new updated national strategy on domestic sexual and gender based violence in Ireland.
Dr O’Connor acknowledged there was a huge increase in domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic, which was addressed with additional funding for Clare Haven from Tusla, Clare County Council and the Department of Community and Rural Development.
There was a 21% in the demand for the service across the board, the Clare Haven helpline numbers went up by 24% and the numbers using their refuge increased by more than 20% from December 2019 to December 2020.
“20% more women and children had to escape from their homes compared with the previous year, even though they were in lockdown.
“It was so dangerous in their home, it was safer to go out into a pandemic.
“It is very important that women are in control of their journey from trauma to recovery. This needs to be brought into the strategy so that it is a woman-led strategy,” said Dr O’Connor.
“Domestic abuse isn’t a standalone issue. There are other issues such as housing, addiction, educational needs and mental health. They are all connected.”
She thanked people and businesses in Clare who donated more to Clare Haven over the last 14 months compared with the previous two years, despite the fact people lost their jobs and companies closed down during the pandemic.
“People donated small and large amounts of money and goods. So many people remembered Clare Haven,” she said.
Last week, Ms Linnane expressed concern about receiving conflicting dates about the release of the perpetrator of her abuse, Martin Mulqueen, the lack of adequate state support for abuse victims and the effectiveness of barring orders.
She claimed the perpetrators of coercive control don’t have to hand over their medical records unlike abuse victims who are compelled to comply with this request.
Responding to Clare Champion queries, the Department of Justice stated it is fully committed to combatting this type of violence and to ensuring that anyone who is a victim of this type of abuse is empowered and supported to seek help, confident that there are robust systems in place to bring perpetrators to account. Minister Humphreys and Minister Naughton are focused on the implementation of Supporting a Victims Journey, launched last October by Minister McEntee.
It plans to create a victim-centred system that supports and empowers victims and gives them the confidence to engage with all services knowing they will be supported, informed and treated with respect and dignity at every point and by every person they come into contact with.
The supports being introduced will be provided regardless of whether or not criminal proceedings are in train and will extend beyond the trial and verdict because victims do not stop needing support at the end of a trial. The landmark Domestic Violence Act 2018, which came into force on 1 January 2019, created the offence of coercive control, which encompasses a series of non-physical behaviours that can be just as damaging as physical violence.
It is now recognised in law the devastating impact this type of emotional abuse can have on those upon whom it is inflicted.
“The recent convictions in the state for coercive control are welcomed, it conveys the message that perpetrators cannot act with impunity and changes how as a society we view and tackle such heinous behaviour.
“The bravery of the victims in these cases is to be commended. It is hoped that as more convictions follow, other victims of coercive control will feel confident to come forward,” said a department spokesman.
Other significant legislative reform in this area includes the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Act 2017, which introduced a statutory definition of consent and the Criminal Justice Victims of Crime Act 2017, which includes provision to protect and inform victims in the criminal justice system.
The Department of Justice is continually examining these laws in the context of their effectiveness and to identify if any changes are required.
by Dan Danaher