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[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Combating domestic, sexual and gender-based violence: statements . (19 Nov 2020)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

Deputy Matt Shanahan: I am happy to be here to speak on what is a silent epidemic. It has been prevalent in Ireland not just recently but for many generations. When we speak about domestic violence, we need to contextualise it to a degree. It includes abusive relationships, taking many different forms. Included are the physical abuse of hitting, pushing, denying medical care, emotional abuse, manipulation, threats, name-calling, sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, pressuring a person to have sex, and image-sharing, as has been discussed. It also includes economic abuse, the withholding of funds to put someone in debt and deliberate neglect.


One of the areas we should look at in the Dáil this year is the issue of the school food programme. Many schools are running it. It provides a necessary function for children who are suffering neglect in their family homes. All of these issues encompass coercive control, predominantly against women, but men suffer too in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. Significant emotional damage occurs and results for victims.


What is the nature of domestic violence? Is it nature or nurture? Can we look for it in our environment? Does it come from our families? Is it something we see? Who are the victims? We know they are wives. They are also partners, children and adolescents. In many cases, those who have been subjected to domestic violence may well find that they bring it into future relationships. There are significant triggers which people in these situations talk about, including alcohol, other addictions, unemployment, jealousy, anxiety, suppressed rage, personality disorders and social-media related jealousy, which is a new phenomenon. I would also highlight gambling. Online gambling has been a silent epidemic that is bringing more and more financial hardship. In itself this brings more domestic pressure. The sufferer's state of mind is relevant, as is the fear that the person has. There may be esteem issues. The person may feel she is not worthy to counter someone who is predating on her in this way. Shame, financial insecurity, vulnerability and previous psychological traumas that the person may have suffered may allow the person to continue to suffer in future and ensure the person will not see a new or genuine opportunity come along.


Ireland has only one third of the recommended capacity of refuges - something which has been spoken about today. Many are communal and therefore unsuitable in the context of a pandemic. What role can the State play? What about refuges and family law support? I applaud the Garda for the ongoing operations. I would like to see an increase in barring orders. How does the PULSE system record domestic violence? Should a register of offenders be complied? I believe it should. If we are going to have a sex offenders register, then we should have a domestic violence register as well. We know that people who break the law in this way will probably do it in future. It is likely the person will take it from one relationship to another.


We know domestic violence has risen as a result of Covid-19. Some 15% of women and 6% of men in Ireland have experienced severe domestic violence from a partner. That most women in Ireland who have been killed were intentionally killed by a current or former intimate partner is a source of concern.


Some of the Deputies have spoken about Safe Ireland and the results of the recent surveys. It is no harm to restate briefly the results. Some 3,450 women and 589 children contacted domestic violence services for the first time in recent months. On average, at least 1,970 women and 411 children received support from a domestic violence service each month. Some 33,941 helpline calls were answered representing an average of 184 calls per day. We assume they are not all coming from the same households. At least 150 households every day are looking for help. On average, 191 women and 288 children were living in domestic violence accommodation each month. We know they want to get out and have the opportunity to move on. Some 1,350 requests for refuge could not be met due to a lack of space. Those providing the services have worked tirelessly to create and find accommodation in the community. The numbers are rising and the present lockdown, as has been discussed, is a difficult time for many.....


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