By Margaret Martin
Women’s Aid has been working to end domestic violence in Ireland since 1974. This 40 year period has witnessed a massive societal shift in Ireland, but unfortunately, we as a society still haven’t put in place a system to make it possible for women and their children to live in safety and dignity. Ireland has not met women’s needs in terms of support, even after the most serious incident of violence by a partner. Research shows that the most dangerous time for women in an abusive relationship is when they decide to leave. It has taken 40 years to achieve a third of the required refuge spaces for women in Ireland. However, the Family Law court system is under resourced, with women facing delays of up to four months to have full barring orders.
We need to take the focus from the victim and name the problem of male violence against women. Society needs to provide proper protection and to hold the perpetrators to account.
Women’s Aid has taken part in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign for over 20 years now. The 16 Days of Activism is an important opportunity to raise awareness of the prevalence of domestic violence in Ireland, as well as for connecting with local domestic violence services throughout the country and raising awareness of the services available to women. It is also an important opportunity to show solidarity with local services as we work to end violence against women.
In Ireland last year, over 130 groups took part in the 16 Days Campaign through the National Balloon Action or through other events like seminars, discussions, plays, art competitions, exhibitions, film screenings, postcard and poster campaigns, information stands and media campaigns. Similar numbers will take part this year, showing solidarity with women and domestic violence services from around the world.
This year we will continue to highlight the prevalence of domestic violence, using Women’s Aid figure of one in five women affected.
On our website, there is a map of Ireland showing the different events taking place throughout the country. We have a 16 Days video which our supporters share on various social media platforms, as well as a list of Women’s Aid resources available to local services. We post a blog every day, highlighting different areas of domestic violence, such as female homicide and highlighting the various areas of work of national and local services. There are also several guest blogs which we post throughout the 16 Days Campaign. Women’s Aid regularly post messages of support which we receive from people and groups such as the police force An Garda Síochána, the President of Ireland, and the Ombudsman for Childr
A key part of our campaign is an action display outside the Irish houses of parliament, Dáil Éireann. This action display serves to highlight the 16 Days Campaign in the media and lobbies government and public representatives from the opposition parties. Women’s Aid has kept records of the numbers of women murdered since 1996. This year, we will be using our public action to highlight the 78 women who have been killed by their partner or ex-partner, as well as the 10 children in these cases who were killed alongside their mothers.
Women’s Aid hopes that our work, in combination with the global 16 Days Campaign, will raise awareness of the issue of domestic violence in Ireland and push for positive change to make women and children safer. By organising events in our local communities that highlight the issue of domestic violence and promote the services available for women, we make the issue visible, we break the silence, we give hope to women who are experiencing abuse, and hold perpetrators of abuse to account.
Margaret Martin is director of Women’s Aid. The Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline on 1800 341 900 is open from 10am to 10pm, seven days a week.