Almost 900 women and children were accommodated in, or needed some kind of support from, domestic violence services in just one 24-hour period last year, new figures have shown.
Safe Ireland, which is the only national organisation representing frontline domestic violence services in Ireland, has just released the results of a one-day census it carried out last November.
According to the organisation, the purpose of this census ‘was to obtain a sense of both the magnitude of the problem in Ireland and the amount of support currently being provided'.
The census, carried out on November 4, 2010, showed that on that day, 555 women and 324 children were accommodated or received support from these services. This is equivalent to 36 people seeking support every single hour of that day.
The various types of services accessed on the day, included accommodation in refuges, calls to telephone helplines and attendance at support groups.
The figures show that seven women and nine children were admitted to a refuge during the day. However, a further 18 women could not be accommodated in various refuges because there was not enough space for them.
Altogether, 140 calls to helplines were answered on November 4.
Meanwhile, of the 555 women who used domestic violence services on that day, two in three were aged between 16 and 45 and most were Irish. However, Safe Ireland did note a ‘large range of nationalities' being represented, including British, Nigerian, Polish, Russian and Chinese women.
Of the 324 children using services on the day, 159 were being accommodated in a refuge, while 119 were being accommodated in transitional housing.
Safe Ireland emphasised that children who have experienced domestic violence ‘live in a world that has been turned upside down, their social and learning development devastatingly impacted upon'.
It insisted that living in a refuge or transitional housing with other children from similar backgrounds ‘can provide them with not only the essential normality and routine of going to school together or playing in the yard together, but a safe space in which the articulation and possible healing from their experiences can begin'.
Commenting on the census findings, Safe Ireland director, Sharon O'Halloran, said that the entire system needed to be overhauled and warned that women and children were bearing the brunt of government policies ‘that are often about saving money over safety'.
"We have to go beyond numbers to acknowledge that each statistic represents a crime against a woman, a mother, an expectant mother, a toddler or a teenager, each living with fear, brutality and uncertainty in their own homes.
"We must all act quickly with responsibility and unwaivering commitment. This action and commitment has to begin with those in leadership - our President and our politicians," she said.
For more information on Safe Ireland, click here
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