herald

Saturday 21 September 2019

Tragedy of Clodagh has inspired other victims to speak out

Mary Coll and sister Jacqueline Connolly are campaigning in the wake of the murder of Clodagh
Mary Coll and sister Jacqueline Connolly are campaigning in the wake of the murder of Clodagh

Murdered Clodagh Hawe's family have inspired a growing number of victims of domestic and sexual abuse to admit they have been subjected to coercive control, rape crisis workers have reported.

Ms Hawe's mother Mary Coll and her sister Jacqueline Connolly gave a powerful interview on Claire Byrne Live on RTE One in February, a month after legislation made coercive control an offence.

In that interview, the women discussed the issue and the duty for Irish society to become familiar with the risk facing those in unhealthy relationships.

Since then, the number of callers to the Rape Crisis Centre saying they have also been victims of such damaging control has grown.

Silent

Ms Hawe (39) was murdered with her children - Liam (13)Niall (11) and Ryan (six) - by her husband, Alan Hawe (40) on August 29, 2016, near Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan. The killer then took his own life.

In the RTE One interview, Ms Coll said of Hawe: "There was a control element. He had this silent presence.

"He could stand five feet away but you would know that he was in control."

Rape Crisis Centre chief executive Noeline Blackwell told the Herald: "Regarding calls in relation to sex offences, definitely for many of the callers, they are victims of coercive control.

"When we look at rape cases, we do get calls on coercive control and this is so firmly in the context of domestic violence. But given we are only at the end of April, it will take time to build up evidence and cases for the people saying they are victims of coercive control.

"It's about a pattern of behaviour but we do not have statistics after such a short period."

Clodagh Hawe
Clodagh Hawe

Ms Blackwell said right up until the introduction of the legislation, survivors had realised they were suffering as a result of control but it could not be pinned down as a crime.

Now under the Domestic Violence Act 2018, a pattern of intimidation or humiliation involving psychological or emotional abuse is an offence.

Barring orders can be used more quickly, and safety orders are also available.

Ms Blackwell welcomed an additional €1.5m in funding for services supporting domestic and sexual violence survivors from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

This funding represented a 10pc increase in funding to services at the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, as well as others. However, Cliona Saidlear, executive director of the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, who represents centres across Ireland, said she believed some facilities may actually have suffered "cuts" rather than increases in funding.

"A 10pc blanket increase in funding is poor practice," she said, explaining that each centre has different needs

"There's queries around this funding - is it Tusla's budget for 2019 or the minister's budget?"

Ms Saidlear added that each centre arranged its budgets with Tusla prior to Children's Minister Kathe rine Zappone's announcement.

"It's a doozy politically," Ms Saidlear said. "For us, it feels amateurish and offensive. Each of the centres will have had extensive negotiations with Tusla on their budgets, so the minister has overridden all of that with this announcement.

"Is the minister's word on this the last word, or is that with Tusla?"

A Tusla spokesman said the minister's announcement was in addition to the funding which was already being provided by Tusla.

"Funding allocations for 2019 - separate to the 10pc funding announced by the department - are the subject of ongoing, continual discussions between Tusla and the service provider and are subject to continual change throughout the year."

A Department of Children and Youth Affairs spokesman said: "In 2019, Tusla is providing €25.3m in funding to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services, an increase of €1.5m over 2018 funding. The 10pc increase in core funding to the 16 rape crisis centres in 2019 is based on the previous core funding provided to these centres."

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