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New committee report will ‘lift the lid’ on domestic abuse

Vice Chairperson of the committee, Anne Ferris, has urged victims to get in touch to share their experiences and tell them how the system can be improved.

Image: Domestic violence image via Shutterstock

LABOUR TD ANNE Ferris has said that a new report she is compiling for an Oireachtas Committee, will “lift the lid” on domestic abuse.

Ferris, who is Vice Chairperson of the Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality,said the report will look at the problem of domestic violence and how to stop it.

“There is evidence of crimes going down while reporting of domestic violence is going up,”  she told TheJournal.ie. “Obviously it’s a good thing that people are reporting it but that’s only scratching the tip of the iceberg.”

It’s seen as a socially unacceptable crime for the men involved but it’s also a deeply embarrassing thing for the women to go through. There’s a perception that it only happens to poor people but we’ve seen recently, for example, with the Nigella Lawson case, that it can happen to any woman.

Ferris said the committee is “trying to lift the lid on the issue” and change the way domestic violence is looked at.

“Domestic abuse may include shocking physical and sexual violence but it also may take the form of bullying and other controlling behaviours, constant put-me-downs, verbal abuse and threats,” she said. “Having bruised skin or broken bones is not the only sign of domestic abuse.”

She said that the red tape surrounding reporting of domestic violence and what happens to the people involved afterwards needs to be reviewed.

“A victim will go to a refuge and maybe stay a week but will have to move on after that because they’re so short on space,” she explained. “The council won’t put them on a housing list if their name is on the deeds of the house they’ve left and they cant get rent allowance if they’re not on the council list so all of this kind of stuff has to change, in every government agency.”

Courts

The Labour TD said she doesn’t think the system here in the courts encourages people to report domestic abuse.

“In England or America, as soon as you make a complaint to police, you’re immediately assigned a case worker in the courts to deal with solicitors, women’s refuges, the Department of Social Protection, applying for barring orders – all of these things, and we’ve got to do this too,” she said. “I’m sick and tired of women having to put up with this and with being second best”.

The closing date for submissions to the committee for the report was yesterday but Ferris said that late submissions would not be rejected and can be sent to the clerk to the committee at justiceanddefence@oir.ie.

Victims of abuse and organisations who have something to say about what needs to be done to combat the problem are being asked to contact the committee with their thoughts and suggestions.

Ferris said she would also urge men who are victims of domestic abuse to contact the committee, as these victims can sometimes be forgotten and there have been calls for increased resources to create refuges for men.

“The shame and embarrassment for them can be worse but this has to be highlighted as well so we want everyone to come forward, not just the women,” she said.

“Hopefully the sharing of your experiences can result in improved systems for others,” she added.

Full details on how to make a submission are available here. Submissions will be looked at throughout the Dáil’s summer recess and the committee will begin hearing from individuals and groups in September.

Read: Over 3,000 domestic abuse victims helped by support commission last year>
Read: Clare’s Law protects women at risk of domestic violence>
Read: 3 million children in Europe call helplines over violence and abuse>

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