Clare Bailey warns that domestic violence has reached epidemic proportions

 

Thursday March 8 2018

 

Green Party MLA Clare Bailey has called for zero tolerance on domestic violence and sexual abuse against women.

The South Belfast MLA was today hosting a Women’s Aid event at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, which saw the launch of consultation report ‘Violence Against Women Consultation with Victims, Survivors and Service Users 2017/18’ on International Women’s Day.

The report documents the experiences of 150 victims, survivors and service users of the system after they have come forward and dealt with domestic violence and abuse.

“Domestic violence in our society has now reached epidemic proportions. The under-reporting of domestic abuse incidents due to the nature of the crime sees only one third of the ‘worst’ cases reported to the police. When we look at what happens to women and children that do report, I am actually quite surprised the number is as high as it is,” Ms Bailey said.

“To ensure that services addressing domestic violence and sexual violence continue to develop and to effectively meet the needs of women, then the views of those using them need to be gathered and acted on, and that is exactly what this document does.

“By empowering and raising the voices of women and children, survivors can ensure that society, men, the State, both statutory and voluntary agencies take the abuse of women and children seriously. I hope that the information gathered will help all services engage more effectively with women and better understand their needs.

“Women and girls are being beaten at home, sexually and economically exploited, assaulted on our streets or at work, harassed online or while playing sports, raped, mutilated, or forced to marry,” Ms Bailey said.

“The impact on women, girls, families, communities and society is devastating, and something I was passionate about addressing when I got elected in 2016. I fundamentally believed as a legislator I could change the way domestic violence and sexual violence is treated by the law so that the outcomes for women and children would improve.

“The Stopping Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse in Northern Ireland Strategy was launched in 2016. The vision was to have a society in which domestic and sexual violence is not tolerated in any form, effective tailored preventative and responsive services are provided, all victims are supported, and perpetrators are held to account.

“I hoped that this would go some way in starting to address these issues seriously, but with no budget attached, and no Executive to drive it forward, this like so many other serious issues was deemed irrelevant.

“Domestic violence and sexual violence need to be tackled holistically, and need solutions that address poverty, welfare reform, mental health issues, childcare, women’s education and employment, prevention work and sexism. We need decent domestic violence and coercive control legislation similar to that in the UK, swift and harsh sentencing of perpetrators, and adequately resourced specialist support services for victims, survivors and their families.”

The Green Party MLA called for the report’s eight recommendations to be put into action.

 

Caption: Green Party MLA Clare Bailey, Women’s Aid policy coordinator Louise Kennedy and Women’s Aid CEO Jan Melia at the launch of the consultation report at Stormont today

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

As well as the eight recommendations in the Women’s Aid report, Clare Bailey said that to tackle the impunity in the system that victimises women and children we also need to:

  • Teach all children in schools about consent and healthy relationships
  • Work with Trade Unions and employers to promote best practice in tackling gender based violence in the workforce, including sexual harassment.
  • Create through legislation a specific offence that will deal with those who commit psychological abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour
  • Make penalties for DV consistent and firm with swift and severe sentencing
  • Domestic violence Intervention programmes to be made compulsory for all perpetrators
  • Further training for PSNI, Health and Social Services, PPS, & Courts to understand the experience and impact of DV & SV on women and children
  • Review of contact orders so that the best interests of the child are paramount and that these orders cannot be manipulated to maintain power and control, over the mother
  • Proper financial resources long term and ring fenced for Support services; Refuge places, advocacy workers, family support
  • Removal of the perpetrator from the family home or alternative appropriate accommodation for the family if they so require
  • Financial resources made available for victims and survivors alongside training and employment opportunities and flexible affordable childcare
  • Fully endorse and support the Istanbul convention in tackling violence against women and girls

 

ENDS

 

Linda Stewart

028 9052 1141

07594 391264

07761 254553

 

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