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'Very few women my age have not been subjected to some form of sexual assault' - Minister

TDs called for action on sexual, domestic and gender-based violence in the Dáil this afternoon.

Minister Josepha Madigan
Minister Josepha Madigan
Image: Oireachtas.ie

THE GOVERNMENT URGENTLY needs to invest in refuges to support domestic abuse survivors, the Dáil heard this afternoon.

Investment in refuges emerged as a key issue today as TDs made statements in the Dáil on sexual, domestic and gender-based violence, calling for action from the government.

The government also needs to give attention to the planned new strategy to combat these types of violence, the Dáil heard.

Minister Josepha Madigan said that there are very few adult women who have not experienced some kind of sexual assault.

“I’m old enough to know that there are very few women my age who have not been subjected to some form of sexual assault in their respective lifetimes, and I know this because I’m one of them,” the Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion said.

“It won’t come as a surprise to those of us of a similar age who have suffered this trauma, and sometimes we have suffered it more than once,” Madigan said.

She said it “was and is a lot more common than many believe”.

“The scary part about sexual assault in particular is that it is not always the random monster in the middle of the night, but often a friend or spouse or acquaintance,” the minister said.

“Many of the 36 women TDs and 18 senators may disagree on ideology and policy, but on a completely personal and human level we will agree on one thing – we are all very much a part of the unfinished democracy that is Ireland when it comes to the representation and treatment of women.”

Source: VideoParliament Ireland/YouTube

Plans are underway to develop a new strategy for combatting Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Ireland.

“While we must do everything we can to prevent domestic and sexual violence we must also be realistic and acknowledge that new victims will continue to experience violations and therefore we must be very aware of the impact this new strategy will have on new and existing victims,” Madigan said.

Women’s Aid 2020 annual impact report recorded 24,893 disclosures of abuse against women last year and 5,948 disclosures of abuse against children.

Between March and December 2020, the 24 hour National Freephone Helpline saw a 38% increase in calls compared to the same period in 2019.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that the “reality is that this government, like ones before, fails to support survivors of abuse”.

“There are currently nine counties without any refuge provision,” McDonald said.

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“Where refuge does exist, they are stretched to capacity and faced with the really appalling situation of having to turn women and children away who are in real danger simply because they have no room for them.”

She asked the Taoiseach to commit to meeting the State’s emergency accommodation obligations under the Istanbul convention and for Budget 2022 to include additional investment to guarantee the delivery of needed refuge spaces.

Similarly, Labour TD Brendan Howlin said that it is “time for the State to step in and to ensure that proper refuges are provided as a matter of course available to anyone caught in this dreadful situation.”

Opening the discussion in the Dáil today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that “over the course of the pandemic, we know that many countries have reported an increase in domestic abuse cases – sadly one of the most depressing side effects of the widespread restrictions that were necessary”.

“Unfortunately, this has been borne out in Ireland too,” Martin said.

“To anyone who is listening to this discussion who needs to exit an abusive relationship, help is out there.”

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