Press Release from SAFE Ireland 19/04/2016
1. The State We Are In is SAFE Ireland’s second Safety Audit – our second analysis of how safe and responsive Ireland actually is for women and children fleeing violence. There have been welcome developments in policing, policy, legislation, awareness and recognition of the complexity of domestic violence since our last Safety Audit in 2014. However, two major issues continue to undermine the most fundamental rights that women and children fleeing violence should expect to have – that is, the right to a safe home and the right to reliable and equal treatment by our justice system. The State We Are In focuses on these two major barriers to women’s safety and wellbeing.
2. The State We Are In tells us starkly that the needs of over 4,000 domestic violence victims every year continue to be ignored in all the discussion about the housing crisis. Homeless figures and needs are being greatly under-estimated because over 4,000 women and children being accommodated on a yearly basis in emergency refuge accommodation are not being counted and recognised as actually being homeless. In 2014, 1,658 individual women and 2,349 children (4,007 in total) were accommodated in emergency refuge accommodation. In addition, 4,831 requests for refuge could not be met because the refuge was full. Refuges remain at capacity levels today. Government figures at the end of February show that 912 families with 1,881 children were in emergency homeless accommodation across the country – this is shocking. BUT this does not include the majority of those in emergency refuge accommodation.
3. Domestic violence is simply not on the homeless agenda despite the crisis evidenced in our services.According to local authority practice, women leaving violent homes are not being considered homeless; they are seen as being out of home, as they have a home, albeit an unsafe, violent one. They are being rendered invisible when it comes to their right to a safe home. Our new housing research, included in today’s report The State We Are In,
shows conclusively that housing and accommodation is at crisis point throughout the country. It also tells us that because of external barriers to housing – spiraling rents, low or no housing stock and inadequate or unavailable rent allowance – women are staying in refuge for longer than ever. The knock-on effect is that the needs of thousands of women also looking for emergency accommodation cannot be met because refuges are constantly full.
4. This housing and accommodation crisis is all the more distressing because further indicative research, also compiled as part of The State We Are In, gives fresh and disturbing insight into the frequency and severity of violence experienced by women. Interviews with 40 women carried out as part of our new research into women’s interaction with the criminal justice system, tell us that two-thirds of the women spoken to had experienced physical abuse on at least a weekly basis. For one third of these women, physical, emotional or psychological abuse was a daily feature of their relationship. Half reported that they had experienced a serious threat to their lives (eg. attempted strangulation) in the first incident of violence, busting the notion that violence escalates over time. This new evidence is indicating that some women and children may be experiencing violence every day of the year, yet, when they escape this violence and look for two fundamental rights – access to a safe home and access to a justice system that responds to them seriously – they are being failed abysmally. This study is not definitive – it needs a larger-scale study to explore the findings more. However, the mixed method tool used in the new study provides rich understanding of the reality of violence.
5. We are asking our politicians to take domestic violence seriously – to make domestic violence a defining issue in a government programme of action for a better, more caring Ireland. As negotiations on the shape of the next Dáil continue – including negotiations and plans for both the formation of Government and a responsible opposition – we are asking all political parties to face up to domestic violence, to take this stark snapshot of the state’s response to women and children seriously, and to commit to making domestic violence a defining issue – a redline issue – in a government programme of action.