Do you remember what you were doing on Thursday, November 4, 2010? Maybe you were working, attending school or college or having a lazy day. Or maybe you were knocking on the door of a refuge hoping that it could take you in and offer some respite from the domestic abuse you were enduring in your own home.
Safe Ireland, which is the only national organisation representing frontline domestic violence services in Ireland, recently released the results of a one-day census it carried out on November 4, 2010. The details, contained in the report, And Just Another Day, make for startling reading.
Almost 900 women and children were accommodated in, or needed some kind of support from, domestic violence services during this one 24-hour period.
The organisation carried out the census ‘to obtain a sense of both the magnitude of the problem in Ireland and the amount of support currently being provided'. It emphasised that every single day in this country, ‘one in five women face the reality of domestic violence'.
"Home for these women and their children is not a haven of safety or a place to relax. Home for these women and their children is the place where they most experience fear, abuse and violence," it explained.
It said that the high number of people seeking help from domestic abuse support services ‘continues to be an urgent concern'.
This is clearly identified by the November 4 census, which revealed that on that day last year - a normal day for so many others - 555 women and 324 children were accommodated in, or received support from, domestic abuse services. This is equivalent to 36 people seeking support every single hour of that day.
Of these 555 women, 108 were accommodated in refuges, including seven women who were admitted to refuges on that day. However, a further 18 women could not be accommodated in refuges around the country because there was not enough space for them. How did November 4, 2010, end for them?
Other types of services accessed by women on that day included calls to helplines and attendance at support groups. Altogether, 140 calls to helplines were answered on November 4.
Almost four in 10 of the women who accessed services on that day were aged between 16 and 35, while just over one in three were aged between 36 and 45.
"The percentages of women of later age ranges who accessed domestic violence support services on this day are significantly less, but by no means insignificant. Women in the 45 to 55 age range make up 15% of the 555 women, that's 83, and 44 women accessed services who were in the age range of 56 to 65," the report noted.
It said that these smaller figures ‘may reveal how older women experience barriers to accessing support because of their age'.
Most of the women who accessed services were Irish, however the report did note a ‘large range of nationalities' being represented, including British, Nigerian, Polish, Russian and Chinese women.
Meanwhile, of the children who used domestic abuse services on November 4 of last year, 159 were being accommodated in refuges, including nine who were admitted that day, while a further 119 were being accommodated in transitional housing.
The report said 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 pointed out 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'.
It also noted that children exposed to domestic violence ‘have a vast range of support needs', with many needing counseling or other interventions.
"Research shows that children who have suffered domestic violence exposure are in danger of being unable to learn as easily non-repressive, peaceful modes of behaviour and are more likely to fail at school and suffer forms of delinquency.
"It is vital that these children continue to access the range of domestic violence services, so that the internalisation and learning of the violence they have suffered can stop," the report stated.
Commenting on the census findings, Safe Ireland director, Sharon O'Halloran, said that the entire system available to the victims of domestic abuse needs 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".
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