Over 1,000 victims of domestic violence are turned away

Health Service Executive figures show that 1,144 female victims of domestic violence were turned away from HSE Eastern region accommodation centres in 2004. The situation has changed little in the Eastern-region since 2001 when 1,104 domestic violence victims were unable to be accommodated by the HSE. The refusals were due to a lack of available space. The latest figures available are from 2004, however it is likely that there was a similar situation in 2005 as there have been no additional spaces in the centres since then.

The HSE figures show that their Rathmines centre turned away 414 women; the Bray centre 250 women; and the Aoibhneas centre 480 women. The three centres accommodated 635 women and 1,333 children in total in 2004. In the past, Women's Aid had some independent refuges, but these have now been taken over by the HSE. So once women are turned away from the HSE hostels there are no other refuges to turn to.

Women's Aid figures show that two out of five women who have been involved in a sexual relationship with a man experience violence. Of these women, nine per cent reported having been choked and ten per cent said they had been punched in the face. There are currently three refuges in the greater Dublin area with a total capacity of 24 family spaces, well below the 1.7 spaces per 10,000 of the population which is recommended internationally. One of the Dublin refuges reports turning away up to 45 families per month. There is a proposed new refuge in Blanchardstown, however this is under threat because of funding issues.

Due to a lack of funding to Women's Aid their helpline was unable to answer two out of every five calls in 2004. They receive €628,000 funding from the HSE annually – which accounts for 39 per cent of their total income.

Last year the Women's Aid Helpline responded to 12,147 calls. Thirty-three per cent related to physical violence, 44 per cent to emotional abuse and 13 per cent to sexual violence.

The HSE figures were released by the HSE to Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh. He said: "The fact that the three centres covered by the HSE response show that almost twice as many women were turned away as were accommodated indicates a massive problem of under-resourcing. There needs to be mainstream government funding channelled directly and speedily into providing additional places immediately."

Emma Browne