Domestic abuse activists hit out at 'indifference'
A campaigner has told a major conference how the Government has fast-tracked the Rugby World Cup Bill while moving "slowly" in progressing a domestic violence law.
The Croke Park conference, organised by Safe Ireland, was attended by gardai, social workers and other groups who work with female victims of coercive control.
It heard from speakers who are lobbying for tougher domestic violence legislation.
Safe Ireland's Caitriona Gleeson said a law to protect women was long overdue.
"We've been campaigning for a domestic violence law for many years and yet the bill is moving very slowly," she said.
"I am a sports fan but I have to say the Rugby World Cup Bill passed all stages very quickly, yet after years of campaigning we are still waiting for a domestic violence law.
"We are talking about crimes against women, but we don't have a law for it in Ireland. We are trying to retrofit women into a law here."
Ms Gleeson said that so far the Government has failed to recognise that coercive control is a threat to many women in domestic violence scenarios.
The conference also heard that control had been an issue in more than 90pc of cases.
Experts say coercive control is anything from telling a woman what to wear to controlling her money, and other, more subtle methods of control.
Dr Marie Keenan, a UCD lecturer in criminology and social science who also trains social workers, said "accountability" needed to be highlighted and she felt women were being let down by the system as a whole.
"I am interested in systemic accountability, particularly in investigations," she said. "How many times do we need reports and the same things coming up time after time?
"We have several agencies but I can't figure out, after 40 years in this area, whether it's incompetence or lack of courage, stupidity or lack of political will. But whoever it is I'm kind of tired of the indifference."
Dr Keenan made the comments after the Domestic Violence Bill reached committee stage last week in the Seanad, but official garda figures on domestic violence remain out of date because the system doesn't yet recognise it as a crime.
Instead, reports are investigated as assault, or in some circumstances rape or sexual assault.
Davina James-Hanman, a domestic violence campaigner, said homicide reviews should be carried out in detail in Ireland.
Reports from different agencies could be combined to find out where incidents had not been flagged up as domestic violence even though the victim was killed by a partner.
This was, she said, a way gardai, social workers and lawmakers could bring about change.
Some 470,000 Irish women have experienced some form of psychological violence by a partner, according to a major EU-wide study in 2014.