Opinion: Survivors of domestic violence in Ireland deserve better 1 month ago

Opinion: Survivors of domestic violence in Ireland deserve better

When it comes to reporting domestic violence, lives are on the line. There is no room for error.

Over the weekend, The Times reported that a large number of calls from people experiencing domestic violence had been cancelled by the Gardaí between 2019 and 2020.

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In some instances, people called 999 for help a number of times, though assistance was not forthcoming.

A statement from Women's Aid described the reports of these failures by the Gardaí as being of "deep concern".

It read: "The Gardaí are a key frontline responder to combating and preventing the scourge of Domestic Abuse in Ireland, and public trust in their response is absolutely vital."

The organisation's CEO Sarah Benson said: "What is of critical importance is that there is a swift, sensitive and systematic outreach to those whose calls went unanswered; to assess their safety and support needs. A complete root and branch revision of internal systems and practices must also be completed to ensure that such a grievous breach of procedure can never happen again."

The report points to one of the many ways survivors of domestic violence are let down by society, and the implications of this are grave.

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In Ireland, 1 in 4 women who have been in a relationship have been abused by a current or former partner. In 2019, Women's Aid noted that there were 19,258 disclosures of domestic violence against women. Since the start of the pandemic, calls for help have increased by 25%. 

These statistics paint a grim picture of the reality many people experience in their homes. And yet, how can we even attempt to tackle the problem when calls for help go ignored and unanswered?

Garda commissioner Drew Harris has said that a major trawl to retrieve the recordings and establish the volume and nature of the cancelled calls is underway. However, we may not have answers until the end of July.

In the meantime, one thing remains clear. Those who experience domestic violence should not have to bear the impact of bureaucratic failure. Too often, survivors of abuse are cruelly blamed for not seeking help sooner, but, in reality, they are let down by society.

When it comes to reporting domestic violence, lives are on the line. There is no room for error. Survivors deserve to be heard.

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If you have been affected by domestic abuse, Women's Aid can be reached on 1800 341 900 at any time 7 days a week.