Commitment to strategy on violence will be measured by funding

The state’s first ever Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender–based Violence is welcomed by advocacy groups, but it is meaningless without adequate funding. By Deirdra O'Regan.

The five year strategy was produced by the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender–based Violence (COSC), which was established by the government in June 2007.

Speaking at the launch, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern said: "This government is tackling the violence and abuse suffered by women and men of a sexual and non sexual nature both within and outside the domestic scene. These types of crimes often happen behind closed doors where there are no witnesses or, worse still, where the only witness is a child. As a government, we are saying 'No to Domestic Violence, No to Sexual Violence and No to all types of gender-based violence'".

Minister Ahern continued : "Today I launch much more than a document – I launch a vision of a society that says it will not tolerate, nor remain silent on, domestic, sexual or gender-based abuse and violence against another person in our neighbourhood and community".

The publication of the strategy has been welcomed by organisations which support victims of domestic and sexual violence. 

Fiona Neary, Director of the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) said the strategy, and the commitment of a number of government departments and agencies, was a welcome development in their objective to prevent and respond properly to sexual and domestic violence. 

However, as Politico reported in December, services for victims of domestic abuse, including domestic and sexual violence, are under severe strain due to economic cutbacks. This problem is compounded by the fact that during periods of recession, services to help victims of domestic, sexual and gender–based violence are even more crucial. 

‘Safe Ireland’, an organisation which represents 20 women’s refuges across the country, has previously warned that cuts to centres with low staff numbers would make it impossible for them to continue operating. Already the Meath Women’s Refuge and Support Service Centre in Navan revealed it has been forced to turn away those looking for help in the wake of the budget cuts. In a two month period, 17 women and 21 children had been turned away from the shelter due to lack of funding.

Women’s Aid have warned how the recession is trapping women in abusive relationships. Calls to the organisations help line have revealed that the financial crisis has led to more frequent and dangerous domestic abuse. Callers also said that abusive men were often using the recession to excuse their behaviour. Despite the increase in abuse, organisations that help victims have experienced huge funding cut backs. In 2009, Women’s Aid was one of these victims of recessionary cutbacks. Margaret Martin, director of Women’s Aid, has said 2010 “looks even bleaker”.

Green Party Deputy Leader and Women’s Affairs spokesperson Mary White welcomed the publication of the strategy but also mentioned the need to secure adequate finance to help victims of domestic, sexual and gender–based violence.

 “I warmly welcome the publication of today’s strategy...All of us want a strategy that will end the pain of gender-based violence and now we must work towards delivering on that strategy. We must ensure that whatever finance is required will be put in place to support Rape Crisis Centres, Women’s Refuges, Women’s Aid Centres and centres that work towards combating gender-based violence.”