To seriously tackle domestic violence we have to understand its social roots It’s not just a question of individual bad men – it is a product of society that for many centuries has treated women as second or third class citizens, and worse has regarded them as the ‘property’ of men, in particular seeing wives as the property of their husbands. And in a society based on the idea that the rights of private property are sacred we all know that you can do what you want with your property. For decades the state, the courts and the police, have turned a blind eye to violence experienced by women and children under the cover of the well-known phrase “Its only a domestic dispute”. Those days are over now, while around the world women are saying not only “me too” but “no more”. So why don’t they leave? Is the reaction of many people when they hear of the abuse of a woman (mostly it is women, but sometimes men). Fear is one reason, the fear that if they don’t succeed in getting away from the abuser, it will be all the worse for them. And they are right – research shows that some of the most horrific cases of violence are against those who try to leave. But a huge factor is that THEY HAVE NOWHERE TO GO. Ireland has around a quarter of the recommended places of safety for women and children. The situation has become worse during the pandemic – around 2,000 women and 400 children each month since March, seeking refuge from a violent situation. The fact that support for vulnerable women and children is left to charities, is a disgrace. The State should, and could, adequately fund the essential services of providing refuge and support for such women. The fact that they don’t is reminiscent of the Magdalen institutions where the State also wiped it’s hands of responsibility. Shame on successive governments that allow this situation to continue.

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While violence against women is increasing, nine of our 26 counties have no women’s refuge. The State has only one third of the refuges needed by women and children fleeing domestic violence. Yet Tusla handed back, unspent, €60 million of money earmarked for children in need, to Minister Zapone – when all over the country people trying to provide a service are being told ‘sorry, no funding’. Those in power misuse their position, and our money. FF / FG have to go.

 

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