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COMMENT: Domestic abuse victims often left with stark choices

Monday, 14th October, 2019 7:59am
COMMENT: Domestic abuse victims often left with stark choices

PHOTO POSED/BIGSTOCK

COMMENT: Domestic abuse victims often left with stark choices

PHOTO POSED/BIGSTOCK

JUST two days after the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, presented his Brexit budget to the Dáil, Aoibhneas, the domestic abuse support service for women and children, launched its annual report for 2018.

At times, it makes for uncomfortable reading. The report demonstrates the widespread prevalence of domestic abuse in Ireland and the growing pressure on service providers like Aoibhneas to help those affected.

A total of 1,266 women and children (634 families) were supported by the organisation in 2018, representing a 57 percent increase on the previous year. One of the most worrying findings of the report is that the charity was unable to support 365 families seeking refuge.

During 2018, Aoibhneas built on its existing community service provision, expanding both its team and premises. It also launched targeted initiatives which engaged with children in emergency accommodation and women with addiction problems. It expanded on its networking and training capacity, as well as its court preparation and legal aid service.

 The report notes that women and children who experience domestic abuse remain among the most vulnerable, yet invisible, when we examine the homeless and housing crisis that continues to plague Irish society. It says that concerns remain around women and children leaving their refuge with no other option than to enter homeless accommodation or returning to their abuser.

The report also shines a light on the diverse and often unconsidered nature of domestic abuse that occurs. It found that 88 percent of women disclosed some form of emotional abuse and 74 percent presented after a form of physical abuse. Financial abuse, which can entail being denied access to household finances for food, rent and household utilities, featured prominently (44 percent).

Digital abuse (15 percent) emerged as a newer but growing mechanism through which control can be exerted. Cases disclosed included abusers confiscating or searching through victims’ devices.

 Emma Reidy, CEO of Aoibhneas, described 2018 as a challenging year as the service continued to be impacted by the extent of the homelessness crisis.

“Women and children who experience domestic abuse remain in danger as, at times, they are left with little option but to return to their abuser,” she said. “In light of the budget, we are pleased to see extra allocation of funding to homeless services. However, domestic violence services should be no longer precluded from accessing this funding.”

She added: “Specialist services require funding to offer women and children who experience domestic abuse access to accommodation where they can access specialised care and support. Housing and homeless services that provide mainstream support should not be exclusively resourced to do the work service providers like Aoibhneas are equipped and skilled to do. We also call on our core funder Tusla to consider the hundreds of children we support every year and in doing so resource us adequately.”

 

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