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 Christina Sherlock:

On the provision of support over the weekend, I will not talk about Carlow Women's Aid as it is an organisation that is independent of Women's Aid, which runs the national helpline. Perhaps Ms McDermott and Ms Marmion would have a greater insight into the plans for refuge provision in that county. Women's Aid operates the national freephone helpline which is open 24 hours a day and seven days a week. It offers some level of support outside office hours to people who are experiencing this type of abuse. The male advice line run by the Men's Development Network also has opening hours over the weekend, as a point of information.

I will talk about the issue of stigma and shame. It can prevent people from coming forward. The all-too-prominent fear of people knowing one's business, treating the person in a different way or blaming the person for what is happening is very prevalent. We hear that from women using our services and we heard it when we carried out a survey of service users a few years ago. What is very worrying is that we heard it again from younger people when we carried out a survey of 18-year-olds to 25-year-olds last year. That survey told us that one in five young women and one in five young men experience abuse from an intimate partner and in 50% of the cases involving women the abuse started before the age of 18 years. We are talking about young people in their first romantic relationships experiencing this type of abuse at the same level as we know it exists in wider society. Those fears - stigma, shame and fear of not being believed - are still there. They are the top reasons that the majority of the people did not tell anyone, be it family members, general practitioners or helplines, what was happening to them. They did not tell anyone. It is an issue that still exists and is ongoing. I do not wish to be too hopeless about it because we always try to provide hope, but it is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed. It is not going away.


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