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Campaigners say data collection on domestic violence in Ireland at 'crisis point'

A one-day conference in Dublin is urging agencies to gain a better understanding of violence against women in Ireland.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Kamira

THE COLLECTION OF data and analysis around domestic and sexual violence in Ireland is at “crisis point”, according to the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI).

The council’s director, Orla O’Connor said that, because “official statistics do not detail the level and depth of violent crime against women”, it is impossible to determine the extent of the problem.

To help address this issue, the NWCI has convened a half-day conference entitled the Irish Observatory on Violence against Women, organised in conjunction with the European Parliament.

Speakers at the conference include representatives from the government, the Central Statistics Office and Tusla.

In particular, the conference calls on all relevant agencies to increase their knowledge and understanding, and work towards ratifying the council of Europe convention on violence against women, also called the Istanbul convention.

Under the terms of the convention, “it is the obligation of the state to address [violence against women] fully in all its forms and to take measures to prevent [it], protect its victims and prosecute the perpetrators.

Failure to do so would make it the responsibility of the state.

Sharing data

Getting all the agencies involved in recording violence against women is essential to ensuring Ireland follows the terms of the Istanbul convention, and protects women in the State, according to O’Connor.

She said: “We urgently need our State services – An Garda Siochana, Tusla, HSE, the Courts Services and the CSO to come together to record data accurately, and importantly to share the data and subsequent analysis.

Our current system is archaic and not fit for purpose.

Noeline Blackwell, director of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre added: “To reduce violence against women, we need to understand the scale of the problem, and for that we need quality data.

“Reliable and comparable statistics help us to assess the effectiveness of policy measures and services in place, estimate the resources needed to tackle the issue and track progress over time.”

Government commitment

Speaking at the conference, Minister of State for Justice David Stanton said that Ireland still has “a way to go” on its journey with regard to its collection of data on cases of all forms of violence against women.

He also referenced the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021 as a sign that the government was serious about tackling the issues.

Stanton said: “In addition to the important actions dealing with education and awareness raising, there are specific actions for the collection of data, the provision of services to victims of sexual violence and for holding the perpetrators of sexual violence to account.

These actions include timelines for their implementation.

Stanton added that the office with primary responsibility for implementing this strategy, Cosc was coordinating with the gardaí, the CSO, the courts service, Tusla and others to ensure that these aims were met.

He said: “Some challenges are being experienced due to system and structural changes, limits to resources in information technology, and matters related to information sharing.

However, I am assured that all involved are extremely committed to resolving these issues and will, in turn, facilitate work to be undertaken for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention.

Stanton concluded that the collection and coordination of data on violence against women was “an absolute imperative if we are to prevent such violence”.

In a statement released to TheJournal.ie the HSE said that national guidelines for its Sexual Assault Treatment Unit had stressed “high quality response from inter-agency teams to survivors of sexual violence.

A spokesperson said: “These initiatives are the result of collaboration between all the services involved in providing this care, and ensure that multidisciplinary guidance is available to enable provision of a responsive service, to reduce the long-term physical and psychological effects of sexual violence.”

According to a recent report published by Women’s Aid, over 200 women in Ireland have suffered violent deaths since 1996.

Of these, 131 women died in their homes, while 87% of them were killed by a man they knew.

Read: Femicide has claimed the lives of over 200 women since 1996, says report

Read: ‘I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor’: MP gives powerful speech about being raped at 14

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Sean Murray

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