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A Week in the Family Court: Domestic violence applications rose by 5% in 2013

TheJournal.ie spent a week observing cases in the Family Court. Here’s the experts view.

Updated 11.25pm

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ONE IN FIVE women in Ireland who have been in a relationship have been abused by a current or former partner, according to Women’s Aid.

The latest annual report from the Courts Services shows that there was a 5% increase in the amount of applications made under domestic violence legislation, up to 13,275.

Across the board, other than barring applications, there has been in an increase in the number of applications made to the courts in relation to domestic violence.

In 2013, there were 2,738 barring order applications. Of these, 1,167 applications were made.

Protection against violence

Protection Orders made increased in 2013, to 4,142 from 3,849 the previous year. Safety Orders also increased from 2,255 in 2o12 to 2,381 in 2013.

Sarah Clarkin of Women’s Aid said they had seen an increase in the number of incidents of domestic violence. From 2012 to 2011, there was a 19% increase in the number of domestic violence applications to the District Court.

She said women are placed in “extremely difficult” circumstances when they file such applications, and often time children are also present in these situations.

“If you have an abusive partner you can be facing a situation where you have to live with them for up to three months until you get a court date,” said Clarkin, adding that in the meantime, interim safety and protection orders are in place.

“Often these women have to wait out that time in the same home,” she said.

Clarkin explained that there can often be a lot of confusion about the different types of applications there are. “Many women apply for a barring order, but don’t realise this bars the abuser from the home,” she said.

Women really just want the violence to stop, that is why they go to court. Often they do not want the father of their children to leave the family home, they may still love him deeply, but they have to find a way to survive. They hope that his behaviour will change and they are hoping that making an application will make him change. That is the logic behind it.

In 2012, there were 14,792 incidents of domestic violence disclosed to the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline. There were 9,912 incidents of emotional abuse, 2,859 incidents of physical abuse and 1,554 incidents of financial abuse disclosed.

She said that she would like to see more options for women who take the step forward to report their abuser, stating that women who get applications granted are at a higher risk.

Breaches

In 2012, there were 1159 allegations of breaches to these domestic violence orders. A total of 530 were struck out or withdrawn, according to the Courts Services. This can be due to a number of reasons, like the complainant withdrawing the complaint or the State withdrawing the charge.

Only 119 breach of order cases resulted in a prison sentence in 2012, with 115 resulting in a suspended sentence. A total of 71 were fined for breaching their order, 29 were given a probation order with 21 entering a bond to keep the peace.

In 11 cases where the order was breached they were ordered to undertake community service in lieu of prison time. One person was ordered to pay to the Court Poor Box.

Clarkin said that there is no connection between the family law courts and the criminal court, meaning “she has to go to the criminal court to pursue it further, and if it is a difficult case it can leaver her ever more vulnerable”.

“We are particularly worried about the under resources, as there can be long waiting times, with a backlog of 16 weeks in some cases. These women are looking for a solution now.”

Women’s Aid also said that it was also important for safety planning to be in place for women, particularly those who are going through the process for the first time.

This is why they are advised to tell the gardaí about the order, prior to telling their partner. It can be a very intimidating process to go through, but the gardaí are very good, but they can’t be everywhere.

Male abuse

However, domestic violence is not just a women’s issue, it is an issue that impacts on many men. According to the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, 6% of men suffer severe domestic abuse in Ireland.

While 29% of women (1 in 3) report domestic abuse to the gardaí, only 5% of men (1 in 20) report it.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, a spokesperson from AMEN said that quite a few men apply for safety and barring orders in the courts, but not as many as women.

“Recent research from Dr Elizabeth Bates, from the University of Cumbria finds that women are more likely than men to be controlling and aggressive towards their partners, however, in terms of the equity of refuges in the country for men and women, there is a clear disparity, as there are no refuges for men who are victims of domestic violence,” she said.

“The stigma surrounding the abuse of men is still huge,” she said, which is why it is important that both men and women come forward to seek help.

If you have been effected by any of these stories you can contact Women’s Aid on 1800 341 900 or email at helpline@womensaid.ie. You can contact the Amen Helpline on 046 9023 718 or email: info@amen.ie

‘A Week in the Family Courts’ series will be running all this week on TheJournal.ie. Read the cases of domestic violence from the courts here>>>

Tomorrow we will bring you cases relating to the breakdown of relationships that feature in the Family Courts and analysis of some of the issues. 

First published 6.30am

Read: A Week in the Family Court: ‘There needs to be intervention before we reach crisis point’>

Read: A Week in the Family Court: 6,500 children are in care – here are some of their stories>

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