Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality

Women's Shelters and Domestic Abuse Refuges: Discussion

Ms Mary McDermott:

I thank the Deputy. It is an open secret when it comes to domestic violence, sexual and gender-based violence that data is an absolute nightmare to obtain. There is centralised CSO functioning work in the area. That is across all domains of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence; it is all along the long list of names we have for the problem itself.

To speak more generally about the statistics for 2019 and 2020, Covid-19 had a major impact. For example, capacity in refuges was reduced by 25% and, at the same time, demand increased by approximately 23%. We are not sure about the reliability of data relating to calls to 999. This does not take away from the fact that the figures have risen consistently.

I do not want to give an impression comprising entirely of doom and gloom. Some of this will bring a positive result because people will have vocabulary and will be able to speak about it. If we look at the community and corporate response for example, Boots total health pharmacies offered safe spaces and Tesco put tag lines on its receipts. There was an absolute outpouring of response from individuals, communities, the commercial and cultural sectors to say they know there is a problem and they wanted to do something. From the data it is clear there were responses and surges from all kinds but they were not always entirely negative.

What is needed is a proper structure so that energy can be captured. This will lead to robust responses at community level, as the community is where this happens. We need the CSO to work on this at national level and we must create coherent definitions. We must align vocabularies and have clear categories we can all agree and work for that to happen. I am not sure if that gives the Deputy the response he wants but some of my colleagues may wish to comment.


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