General Election 2020: Where the parties stand on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault 5 months ago

General Election 2020: Where the parties stand on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

On Saturday, February 8, the country will go to the polls for a General Election that seems to have been both coming for ages and happening all of a sudden. With new pledges and policy documents being launched almost every day, you could spend every waking hour between now and casting your vote reading and still not get through it all. (If you've actually done that, please do let us know!)

There's plenty of public discussion about the major issues, from housing to health, that affect us all. But what are the parties going to do on issues that are of particular interest to women?

To help you decide where to cast your vote, we identified some key issues for female voters and asked each of the major parties and political groupings for their stance. Their answers are listed below, in alphabetic order.

*We will continue to update the information as we receive answers from the parties and groupings. 

How does the party plan to address the ongoing issue of domestic violence and sexual assault against women?

Fianna Fáil

Fianna Fáil is committed to tackling domestic violence in all its forms. Protective Services Units will be rolled out across the country.

We will progress legislation to ensure that victims are provided with legal advice during the investigation stages of sexual offences. We will introduce Domestic Homicide Reviews in Irish law to allow a review of the circumstances of a victim’s death when that death was caused by a relation of the deceased.

Will will ensure there is consistent and sustained funding provided to rape crisis centres and increased capacity at domestic violence refuges. We will allocate €4.7m to this measure.

Fine Gael

In Government, we have strengthened the legislative and policy approach to tackle these insidious crimes, alongside important measures to protect and support victims.

The Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender based Violence 2016-2021 is being implemented. We will engage closely with stakeholders to develop the next iteration of this important strategy, to ensure that victims are at the heart of the strategy, that it is focused on reduction and prevention, and that it draws extensively from international best practice.

We are taking a range of steps to increase reporting, to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice and that the victims are treated with compassion and care.

• Garda Divisional Protective Regina Doherty Candidate for Meath East 34 Fine GaelGeneral Election Manifesto 2020 Services Units are being established in every Garda division to ensure a consistent and professional approach to the investigation of specialised crime types, including sexual crime, child abuse and domestic abuse

• An expert group is examining the adequacy of the mechanisms available in law and practice relating to protecting vulnerable witnesses in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences.

• The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is conducting multiannual surveys of the prevalence of sexual violence in Ireland.  These surveys will ensure more accurate data to inform policy development. We will ensure that it is repeated every 10 years, with more targeted surveys in the interim period

• We will work to develop an age-appropriate Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme, across the primary, post-primary and third-level sectors, which focuses on developing healthy relationships, the importance of consent, an understanding of sexuality, the role of social media and the prevention of domestic violence

• Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs) help to identify how responses to familicide could be improved in the future. We will introduce DHRs and the other recommendations proposed by the special expert group we have established to examine the issue.

• The newly-established Judicial Council will have an important role to play in ensuring specialist training for judges working in the area of family law.

• Post-release supervision of sex offenders is important.  We will update the Sex Offenders Act 2001, to ensure that convicted sex offenders are effectively managed and monitored. We will examine ways to ban sex offenders from using online dating apps.

The Green Party

We recognise that both of these situations can be highly personal and sensitive, and any action taken must be done with the needs and situation of the survivor at the forefront, especially as those needs can vary widely from case to case. The below is not designed to be a “one size fits all” solution, but rather a series of groundwork policies that can and should be built upon as part of a nuanced survivor-centred support system.

On Domestic Violence:

The Green Party supports the implementation of a mandatory three-point risk assessment protocol by Gardaí for all domestic abuse call outs, regardless of whether or not they result in an arrest or further action of any kind.

We also support nationwide implementation and funding of the High Risk Support Project and a parallel review of the Garda Domestic Abuse Intervention Policy, and would provide all people likely to come into contact with women under threat of violence, such as Gardaí, GPs, teachers and social workers, with full and supported training in the detection of different traits and forms of violence. This would be backed up by holistic services to support victims and families affected by domestic violence.

Further to this, we would ensure the provision of support services for domestic abuse at all operable Garda stations, including annual reviews of service efficacy and detailed data collection.

Finally, the issue of Domestic Violence must be looked at in both terms of the ongoing housing crisis, and the underfunding of refuges. The Green Party would seek to increase the number of refuge spaces and bring it in line with the recommendations of the Istanbul Convention, which recommends one refuge space for every 10,000 people. Ireland currently has around a third of the recommended spaces and this is having huge ramifications for victims of domestic abuse who are unable to leave dangerous situations as a result.

On Sexual Assault:

As a first measure, the Green Party would implement an intensive, comprehensive and measurable education and awareness campaign about violence against women, with emphasis on how it can be detected. This campaign should be targeted appropriately at a wide range of audiences, from school children, to parents, to politicians, to people in business. This would include, for example, teaching positive, healthy relationship skills and strategies for preventing negative experiences for girls and women.

We would also roll out community-accessible counselling for people who have experienced rape or sexual assault, and ensure that the Gardaí have Sexual Assault Units available countrywide for the people who experience sexual assault and rape.

Further to this, we recognise that sexual and domestic violence against women is often a significant factor in the lives of women who are homeless and in prison, and would make available integrated help in the form of accommodation, mental health services and community supports.

Labour

Labour will seek the full implementation of the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence.

We’ll ensure that victims of domestic abuse are given access to accommodation and housing supports, regardless of their tenure status or home ownership status, in situations where the abuser is a joint tenant or co-owner of the property, until such a time as the victim’s tenancy or ownership is resolved.

We’ll also introduce a Statutory Child Maintenance Agency based on best international practice.

Sinn Féin

On sexual assault: 

Sinn Féin believes that more must be done to tackle domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence and support victims when they engage with the justice system.

Sinn Féin priorities:

Better communication and co-operation between the criminal and family courts

Ratify the Istanbul Convention and implement the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence

Increase funding to organisations supporting victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence and provide legal advice and support to those reporting such crime

On domestic violence:

Increase funding for domestic violence refuge provision by €12 million to meet need within the lifetime of the Government.

Social Democrats

We are committed to the full implementation of the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, and will ensure proper funding and resources are available to frontline services and refuge spaces.

As part of our manifesto we will be publishing an extensive plan to tackle sexual assault. This includes:

  • Making consent education available from primary school level in all schools.
  • Ensuring access to victim led specialised services if you have experienced sexual violence, not just if they are reporting it as a crime.
  • Funding frontline services to remove the waiting list to access therapy services.
  • Ensuring access to sexual violence support within domestic violence refuges and within Direct Provision centres.