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'Too many women have had their futures robbed' - Minister urges bystanders to act over domestic violence

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald secured Cabinet funding for the campaign, although her department was unable to give any details as to the cost when asked by TheJournal.ie.

Image: Shutterstock

WOMEN’S GROUPS HAVE welcomed a new six-year awareness campaign against domestic violence to be rolled out by the Department of Justice before Christmas.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has secured Cabinet funding for the campaign, although her department was unable to give any specifics as to the cost or details when asked by TheJournal.ie.

Fitzgerald said the aim of the campaign will be to “change behaviours and attitudes” in relation to domestic and sexual violence.

“Domestic violence remains a serious issue in our society,” Fitzgerald said.

Too many women have had their futures robbed from them.
Society needs to get the message that such violence is criminal and unacceptable.

“Yesterday I secured significant funding to develop and run a six-year national awareness campaign on this issue. I will launch the campaign shortly.

“It will encourage family members, friends and bystanders to take action to combat domestic violence,” she said.

I want the message that domestic violence must stop to reach into households across this country. I want women to feel that they can reach out and ask for help.

“I have listened to your concerns that we need to strengthen the legislation on domestic violence.”

She also said a major new family court complex is planned for Hammonds Lane in Dublin, replacing Dolphin House. A new Family Court Bill, meanwhile, will prioritise mediation in divorce, separation, custody and access cases – although not in domestic violence cases.

Byrne Source: Rollingnews.ie

41 calls a day

Women’s Aid recently said it had answered an additional 1,957 calls during the new night-time service since it went 24/7 in January this year. The freephone number (1800 341 90) now answers 41 calls a day

Asked by TheJournal.ie, Women’s Aid declined to comment on the Minister’s announcement until it had seen the details of the six-year public awareness campaign.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland said it was a necessary step.

“We absolutely welcome it, we need to have a public awareness campaign on domestic violence,” director Orla O’Connor told TheJournal.ie.

“It’s first about changing culture, it’s about opening up a conversation about domestic violence, and in the NWCI we feel this is an issue on which there’s a lot of work to be done.

It’s important because changing our record of violence against women is about changing the culture, and our understanding of it, and that’s why this campaign is important.

“We think it’s one part of the jigsaw, we also need stronger legislation, and more resources for frontline services and the Guards.

“It’s dealing with one part of the problem, but it’s an important part, to change the culture and understanding of domestic violence.”

Denham Chief Justice Susan Denham speaks at Dublin District Family Law Court. Source: Rollingnews.ie

Separate crime

Fitzgerald expects to publish the Domestic Violence Bill later this year, making it easier for spouses to get barring, safety and protection orders, as well as enabling victims to give of evidence by video-link and to bring a community worker into the court to support her during the case.

O’Connor said the NWCI wants domestic violence to be made a separate crime in the bill.

The UK are at the moment expanding the definition of domestic violence to include emotional abuse, as well as physical violence.

One in five women in Ireland will experience domestic and/or sexual violence in their lifetimes, according to the NWCI.

“There’s a worrying absence of data in Ireland on domestic violence, and particularly sexual violence,” O’Connor added.

So what we’ve been calling for a long time, is to have real statistics on this issue.

O’Connor added that Ireland has criticised at UN level for having high attrition levels, in which complaints are not followed up.

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