More shelters are urgently needed to help combat domestic abuse and violence Galway West TD Catherine Connolly has said.
Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Connolly said that between 45 and 350 more refuges are needed around the country depending on whose figures are used.
The figures for violence at home have “without a doubt” increased during the COVID-19 crisis and lockdowns she said, adding that the victims are predominantly women and children.
“We cannot talk about dealing with domestic violence unless we have a sufficient number of safe places for women to go to,” Catherine Connolly said.
“They can be multifunctional. When we have dealt with domestic violence, those refuges can be used for something else in the future so it is money well spent.”
The Independent TD said that she was glad to see that the ‘domestic incidents’ is no longer in use as these are “serious assaults and crimes and we should be talking about them as such”.
During the debate last Thursday, which was for statements on “Combating Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence”, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said that fighting this is a priority for the government in the context of managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Public information campaigns have been running throughout the pandemic in the Still Here initiative to let people know that services for domestic and sexual violence remain open and available despite the lockdown.
“I want to emphasise this point – that Covid travel restrictions do not apply to anybody who is in a domestic abuse situation and is seeking help,” Minister McEntee said.
The government has also provided an additional €327,590 in Covid-specific funding for front line services, with another €400,000 included in Budget 2021, to help these organisations adapt.
The Gardaí also rolled out divisional protective services units in September the Minister added, and front line officers will receive specialist training for engaging with victims of sexual crime and vulnerable witnesses.
“I am committed to ensuring that victims are supported, informed, respected and treated with the utmost compassion and professionalism by all who work within justice system and that everybody with whom they engage is trained at the highest level.”
“It is also important that not only victims feel as though they can come forward but those who are perpetrators of these crimes know that through our support of the victims they will be reported, charged and face the correct consequences.”