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Harrowing tales of domestic abuse laid bare in new report

Friday, 8th December, 2017 11:25am

Harrowing tales of domestic abuse laid bare in new report

File photo

Adrian Cusack

 "Home is hellish," said one woman. "I never know when he is going to fly off the handle. All the neighbours think he's a great man. If only they knew."
Another woman said her partner "blackened my eyes, raped me, abused me. He destroyed my life. I thought I loved him but I know now that I had met the devil."
These were just two of the harrowing accounts of domestic abuse contained in a new report commissioned by Offaly Domestic Violence Support Services (ODVSS).
The 'Forced Out Of Home' report, which was officially launched by Minister of State Damien English on Friday last, focuses on the link between women experiencing domestic violence and homelessness.
With the assistance of a €7,500 funding grant, ODVSS commissioned independent consultant Ann Irwin to carry out the report which recommends a number of improvements to services for women in crisis due to domestic abuse.
The report calls for the definition of homelessness "to be reviewed to overtly include women that are forced out of home because of domestic violence."
Other recommendations include examining the feasibility of a safe housing scheme for women and children in need of crisis accommodation in Offaly, and potentially establishing "a new refuge space in Offaly."
The report also highlighted how many women in need are unable to access free legal aid and are therefore "left with the choice of representing themselves or not availing of court services." As a result, the report calls for an automatic waiver of the legal aid fee for women who experience domestic violence.
Interviews with women that had experienced homelessness, or were at increased risk of homelessness, were carried out by Ms Irwin as part of her work on the report.
"The choice that women are increasingly facing is to stay in an abusive environment or to become homeless," she wrote.
One woman who was interviewed said she had been reluctant to leave her abusive partner because she was concerned about becoming the lone parent of two children, one of whom was an infant.
"She felt there was no support for her to leave and this led her to stay in an abusive relationship far longer than she now feels she should have," said the report.
Financial abuse by male partners was highlighted in the report, for example in one case where a woman's "well-off" husband "controls all the finances and often does not giver her money even for food."
Among the other issues raised were the "additional barriers" to accessing services and supports in rural areas.
"How is a woman living in a rural area who doesn't have a car supposed to leave? There are many areas in Offaly and the Midlands that don't have a bus service. What is she supposed to do if it is in the middle of the night?" asked Offaly Domestic Violence Support Services.
The launch of the report took place at Offaly County Council's offices in Tullamore on Friday last. The timing was organised to coincide with an international campaign (The 'Women's Aid - 16 Days of Action Campaign') to help make women and children safe from abuse.              

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