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Push on to bolster victim support

ISSUES raised by a South Galway mother-of-three, who survived a harrowing experience of coercive control, are central to the ongoing work of a national organisation, it emerged this week.
Safe Ireland is working to erase the silence, secrecy and shame surrounding coercive control and domestic violence so that those in abusive relationships can make new lives without stigma and with proper support pathways in place.
Chief Executive Officer, Mary McDermott has praised Sourney Linnane for showing tremendous courage by waiving her anonymity and speaking publicly in the Clare Champion about her experience of coercive control.
“Safe Ireland hope Sourney is well and is fully supported locally on her extremely difficult journey. The issues she raised are central to our ongoing work. We have engaged formally on them through our many submissions to government.”
She acknowledged the four key points Ms Linnane has raised in a recent interview are significant issues.
While a barring order is attached to an address, Ms McDermott outlined, there is also a sub-clause that prohibits a person from ‘besetting or harassing’ a survivor of domestic abuse.
“It is important to remember that victims’ homes and property remain targets, so both the person and property need protection.
“Garda training in understanding the nature of domestic violence and coercive control is crucial so the full range of a barring order can be properly implemented.
“It is not episodic, it is an identifiable pattern which extends well beyond court, and needs follow-through in every case.”
Commenting on the provision of prisoner release date information, she pointed out the Irish Prison Service has a dedicated Victims’ Office and stressed that training in the trauma induced by domestic violence and coercive control is necessary to make clear the possibility of ongoing abuse and the trauma induced by its anticipation.
Acknowledging there isn’t an automatic right for a survivor of coercive control to receive information about the prison release date of the perpetrator, she explained the survivor has to request this information through the Irish Prison Service.
She called for a contemporary national Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Service Delivery Plan (DSGBV) to fully resource locally-driven services.
Safe Ireland believes services should be available to anyone suffering from domestic violence, no matter where they live.
She stressed trauma-informed professional counselling and support services should be provided to survivors of coercive control and the support of family and friends.
“Services are grossly underfunded. We are not even meeting the Istanbul Convention, which is now ten years out of date for refuges and support services. This isn’t just about providing a bed.
“A woman and her children may need physical protection, safety and shelter for a period. A woman needs economic, therapeutic and social support to rebuild her life.”
Ms McDermott called for a full review of the practices and unintended consequences of the disclosure of abuse survivors’ medical records, particularly where various court assessors and therapists may not have received training in domestic violence and coercive control.
She warned these reports can, unwittingly, become part of ongoing abuse by perpetrators who use all means available to pursue the victim, including mediation and adversarial court proceedings.
“We need the judiciary to be fully trained and aware of how coercive control works and how the perpetrator can act as a ‘bully’ in the courts by using the law to continue to abuse their victims.”
She confirmed Safe Ireland has made submissions to the government on these issues as part of its campaign to dramatically improve services for those who have suffered from domestic violence and coercive control.
Safe Ireland is on the executive working group drafting the third national Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Service Delivery Plan.
In its blueprint for change “No Going Back”, the organisation sets out the complexities and the “horrors” that a survivor of domestic abuse experiences trying to access services from different institutions, housing and other emergency supports.
Ms McDermott pointed out some women remain trapped in an abusive relationship because they find it overwhelming to navigate services to facilitate a new safe pathway for their family.
“We have not created social policies and open and free pathways that women and their children and men who may also suffer from domestic violence can get the support they need.”
She said policy, planning and service provision dealing with domestic violence should be administered in one government department under a dedicated ministry as currently the Department of Justice deals with policy and service provision is addressed from a very small department in Tusla.
“There is no integration or coherence or national services development plan. Safe Ireland wants every person to be able to access a full domestic violence service within their region. We want to see integrated and survivor focused policies and services.”

By Dan Danaher

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