Women's Aid: Nearly 20,000 disclosures of abuse against women and children in 2017

Some 35% of women said gardaí were unhelpful last year

Women's Aid: Nearly 20,000 disclosures of abuse against women and children in 2017

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Updated: 12.30

A Women's Aid report says 21,451 contacts were made to it in 2017.

During these contacts, 15,833 disclosures of domestic violence against women were noted - while there were an additional 3,552 disclosures of child abuse made.

Its annual report for last year found 28% of women said they were being abused by an ex-boyfriend, ex-partner or ex-husband.

Women’s Aid is calling for a 'no contact until contact is safe' rule for access arrangements in cases of domestic violence.

It also wants to see better garda training to deal with complainants.

It says responses from the gardaí to women experiencing domestic violence range from the very negative to very positive.

Some 35% of women told Women's Aid that gardaí were unhelpful in 2017.

The group is highlighting the barriers and dangers women face when trying to leave an abusive partner - including inconsistent decisions and responses from the legal system and the gardaí.

The organisation is calling for the establishment of a Joint Oireachtas Committee to examine the barriers faced by victims of domestic violence and for the identification of the gaps in the systems - and resources that support and assist a safe and quick transition from abuse to freedom.

Mother of three Jessica Bowes was assaulted by her ex-partner in December 2015.

"I had returned home from a Christmas party and he was hiding in my garden.

"He assaulted me so badly that I needed to have reconstructive surgery on my face.

"I had multiple facial fractures: my nose was broken, my cheekbone was shattered, my eye sockets were shattered.

"I was in a really bad way".

She  said was consistently let down by the justice system.

"The barring order, he used to say to me 'it's just a piece of paper', and for me that's all it was.

"Because it didn't hold the weight of the justice system behind it - and that's what I needed for me to leave, was garda protection".

"Shocking and stark"

Women's Aid is also calling for a better system of risk assessment and management by the Family Law Court and An Garda Síochána.

Margaret Martin is the director of Women's Aid: "The statistics Women's Aid present today are shocking and stark and behind each one is a story of pain, suffering and resilience.

"Last year women told us they were being verbally abused, being threatened with violence, being stalked both online and in person.

"Women told us about being locked out of their homes overnight with their children. Women were living in fear for their lives because they were being threatened with knives, guns and abusive partners and exes were threatening to kill them, their children and their families.

"We also heard from women who were hospitalised as a result of domestic violence.

"Women whose partners or exes strangled them until they were unconscious and women being smothered.

"Women were also physically abused during their pregnancy with a number disclosing that they had a miscarriage because of the abuse.

"Domestic violence is the deepest betrayal of trust within an intimate relationship."

The group said women were also sexually abused by their partners, with over 323 women reporting that they were raped in 2017.

Financial abuse was also disclosed, with women saying they were being denied access to the family finances and that their own salary/social welfare were being withheld or stolen.

While financial abuse continued after separation, including the hiding of family assets and the non-payment of child maintenance.

The group also heard over 428 disclosures of women being abused during access visits, and 97 disclosures of children being abused during access visits.

Additional reporting: Paul Quinn

Women's Aid can be contacted on its 24-hour National Freephone Helpline on 1800-341-900 or online at www.womensaid.ie