Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality

Domestic and Sexual Violence: Discussion

2:25 pm

Ms Catherine Joyce:

I also thank the committee for the opportunity to present today and welcome the fact that it is looking at the issue of domestic violence. This is an issue that arises quite frequently in the context of Barnardos' work with children and families across Ireland. Over the last few years, many of our services have reported increased incidences of violence in families with which we work, which is attributable in some part to the impact of the recession and increased pressures on parents. Other speakers have outlined the kind of violence with which families, particularly women and children, deal in the family home so I will not go into that again. What we want to highlight is the impact of that on children. There is a link between domestic violence and child abuse but even where children are not direct victims of violence, the emotional impact of that violence has serious consequences for their development, particularly their social and emotional well-being. Living with that type of stress, anxiety, fear and dread has an incredible impact on their self-esteem, confidence and ability to form relationships and friendships in childhood and adulthood. It also has serious consequences for their education.

The Chairman mentioned prevention. One thing to note is that children learn from parents, as we all know. Situations in which children are growing up in a house with domestic violence can feed its intergenerational nature as children think that this is the norm in intimate relationships. That is something that also needs to be looked at. It is timely that the committee is looking at the issue of domestic violence. We very much welcome the fact that the responsibility for this area has moved to the Child and Family Agency and are hopeful that this opportunity will increase collaboration across all Government Departments to improve responses to domestic violence for women and children.

I will outline some key areas relating to services and legal supports that we think could improve the situation for women and children. Research shows that women are sometimes afraid to report abuse because they fear their children will be taken into care. The child welfare and protection system has a responsibility to respond effectively to the complex needs that arise in domestic violence situations. In particular, prevention, family and parenting support and therapeutic services for both parents and children need to be included in the range of services offered to support families and help them deal with the trauma of such violence. It is particularly important that waiting lists for child and adolescent mental health services are addressed. It is an area that has long been-----


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