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Any cuts to Tusla will affect victims of sex assault and rape

Any cuts to Tusla will affect victims of sex assault and rape.

Irish Examiner opinion piece.
A leaked Tusla (the Child and Family Agency) briefing to a Cabinet subcommittee regarding the Agency being ‘in default of statutory obligations‘ due to a lack of resources, prompted its Chief Executive, Mr. Gordon Jeyes, to make a number of public statements on rte.

Those statements highlighted a serious question about how an agency whose overriding priority is child protection can champion and support adult survivors and services for predominantly women experiencing violence.

What we learnt was that half of all Tusla cuts to date have been made to their community and voluntary sector spending (they control the statutory funding of sexual and domestic violence services and family resource centres). Further Mr. Jeyes stated that the domestic violence and rape crisis sectors will be the targets of further cuts should the government not meet Tusla’s child protection and early intervention funding demands.

But cutting the domestic and sexual violence sector would not gain Tusla the funding it requires to make up its deficits in child protection, estimated by Tusla at €132m over a three year period. The sexual and domestic violence sector, of 60 services nationwide, represents only 3% of the overall Tusla budget at an annual €19m out of €635m.

So why, if it won’t deliver the necessary funds, are sexual violence victims’ services being threatened with these cuts? That is a question we cannot answer.

What we can say is that pitching survivors of sexual violence against child protection is unfair, degrading and heartbreaking. The protection of children from becoming victims is vital. Treating with dignity those survivors of past failures of the state to protect children and responding to their needs is vital. Making survivors and survivors’ organizations argue for one over the other option is unjust. Yet this is precisely what Mr. Jeyes articulated over the weekend.

However, before we rush to judgment we might note that this competition was inevitable when the government set up Tusla. Sexual and domestic violence services, for predominantly adults and predominantly women, were transferred from the HSE to Tusla: the Child and Family Agency.

It was clear from the start that child protection would be the biggest ‘driver’ within the Agency and that the Agency was underfunded. Yet no safeguards, such as ring-fencing the funding of vulnerable organizations at the furthest edges of the Agency’s priorities, were put in place. That adult survivors’ dignity and needs would inevitably be threatened in the interest of preventing children today becoming the survivors of tomorrow, was therefore tragically predictable.

Sexual violence remains, despite 40 years of the feminist movement and considerable advances, an issue shrouded in silences. We estimate 80% of survivors do not choose to engage with the state. It is all too easy to say those silences exist because of regressive cultural attitudes and survivor ‘failings’. Often overlooked is the institutional and structural failings and discriminations that sets the context for survivors’ choices and shape a response from the State that continues to fall woefully short.

The only viable path towards the transformation needed to end sexual violence involves treating survivors with dignity and respect. Survivors, whether adults or children, are whole human beings with rights undiminished by the choice a perpetrator made to target them for a crime. Yet all too often survivors suffer from limitations, fears and consequences that do impinge on their freedoms, their mental health and their choices.

Services for survivors of sexual violence are not luxury extras, indeed the area needs increased investment. The EU Victims’ Directive comes into force on the 16th of November bringing a wide range of legal obligations, including providing free services to victims (article 8(3)). Despite government rhetoric Tusla will struggle to honour these obligations.

It must now be clear to government that an agency, with a remit in child and family welfare which is operating in a funding crisis cannot champion adult survivors of sexual violence. Tusla Director, Gordon Jeyes has as good as said as much and we welcome his honesty.

It is imperative that the Government actively and critically challenges the State’s institutional and structural discrimination against survivors of sexual violence. A Minister making that commitment to leadership needs the input and analysis of experts and specialists without whose engagement the State, as demonstrated, will sleepwalk its way into colluding with the diminishing of a survivor’s rights. Unfortunately, unless things change, that writing is already on the wall.

Cliona Saidlear, PhD, RCNI Strategic and Programme Executive

The Irish Examiner, 13/10/2015

Launch of EU Agency of Fundamental Rights (FRA) Violence Against Women: EU Wide Survey

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) Press Release

5th March 2014

Launch of EU Agency of Fundamental Rights (FRA) Violence Against Women: an EU wide survey

RCNI, as the national Institute on Rape and Sexual violence and the lead national agency on data collection are delighted to be partnering with Safe Ireland, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights and the National Women’s Council of Ireland today to launch the 1st Europe wide prevalence study of domestic and sexual violence ‘Violence against women: an EU wide survey.’

In light of these findings the RCNI calls on the Irish government to protect all funding to front line services and the vital support to those services which is the RCNI and Safe Ireland.

Fiona Neary, RCNI Director said, ‘This survey confirms that sexual violence against women and girls is pervasive and pandemic across Europe with 8% of Irish women saying they had experienced sexual violence since the age of 15 as against the European average of 11%.

‘Since 2009 core funding for rape crisis frontline services has been cut by 16.5% with further cuts confirmed for 2014. These cuts were to a sector that was already chronically under resourced and have been so unevenly distributed that in fact the Centre with the lowest funding was cut by over 30%.  At the same time secondary sources of funding, such as public donations and programme grants have also been severely reduced or stopped.

‘Ireland must continue to build on the work that has started – the on-going cuts to services and insecurity of national data collection programmes must be addressed by the state immediately, the challenge is to build on this foundation to work alongside the RCNI and the Rape Crisis sector to create the infrastructure and the cultural change that will prevent rape and sexual violence.’

‘The research finds that women and girls in different countries have a wide variety of experiences. It is clear that prevalence studies on violence against women simultaneously measure not only prevalence but also, to a greater or lesser extent, a country’s attitude towards talking about these crimes.

‘In some EU Member States it remains a taboo to talk about sexual violence, especially sexual violence within the family. The majority of Irish women who had experienced sexual violence from a non partner who did not go to the police (48%) or any other services (66%) said this was because they would deal with it themselves or because the perpetrator was a friend or it was a family matter. Women named a very high level of fear of assault in our society (28% saying they feared assault in the past 12 months) with surprising numbers of women in work reporting harassment (55% of women experienced sexual harassment, 32% were harassed by a boss, colleague or customer).

Without concerted intervention Ireland will remain a country where women feel they have no choice but to face sexual violence alone.  Until our families, schools, health care and other institutions name sexual violence, we should not expect girls and women who are victimised to do so.’

‘RCNI calls on the Irish government to respond to FRA conclusions, that adequately resourcing responses to victims and supporting systematic evidence generation is vital. The practice of passing the responsibility for this issue to limited remit agencies and departments resulting in gaps and missed opportunities must end. Whole of government action is needed to bring about credible long-term prevention work across all age groups in all statutory settings.

For information
Cliona Saidlear
0872196447

FRA, Violence Against Women: an EU wide survey, is available here http://fra.europa.eu/DVS/DVT/vaw.php 

FRA findings on Sexual Violence Occurrence Ireland Average (%) EU Average (%)
Sexual violence by a partner or a non-partner since the age of 15 8 11
Sexual violence by a partner since the age of 15 6 7
Sexual violence by a non-partner since the age of 15 7 6
Number of perpetrators in the most serious incident of physical and/or sexual violence by a non-partner3 or more perpetrators

2 or more perpetrators

1 perpetrator

1012

77

88

84

Reasons for not contacting the police following the most serious incident of physical and/or sexual violence by a non-partner since the age of 15?Deal with it myself/involved a friend/family matter

Shame, embarrassment?

48

14

33

11

Experiencing any form of stalking since the age of 15
Experiencing stalking in the form of cyberstalking since the age of 15
12
5
18
5
Experiencing any form of sexual harassment:Since the age of 15

Six most severe forms*

In the past 12 months

Six most severe forms*                                               

48

39

19

12

55

45

21

13

Worrying about being physically or sexually assaulted by any
perpetrator
in the 12 months prior to the interviewBy someone from work, school or training

By a previous partner

By another acquaintance or a friend

By an unknown person

285

10

4

23

21
47

3

15

Avoiding places or situations for fear of being physically or sexually assaulted in the 12 months prior to the interviewAvoiding to leave the home on her own

Avoiding to be alone with a colleague or boss at workAvoiding to take certain streets or going to certain areas

69
123

52

53
14

3

37

 

* The six (out of total of 11) most severe forms of sexual harassment were considered: 1) Unwelcome touching, hugging or kissing, 2) Sexually suggestive comments or jokes that made you feel offended, 3) Somebody sending or showing you sexually explicit pictures, photos or gifts that made you feel offended, 4) Somebody indecently exposing themselves to you, 5) Somebody made you watch or look at pornographic material against your wishes, 6) Unwanted sexually explicit emails or SMS messages that offended you.

Copyright © 2012 European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

One in Three Women in Europe Experience Violence – Europe’s Biggest Study

 violence against women header

March 5, 2014

One in Three Women in Europe Experience Violence – Europe’s Biggest Study

One in three – or 33% – of women in Europe say that they have experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of 15 by a partner or non-partner, according to the findings of Europe’s biggest-ever study on violence against women carried out by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (EU FRA).

Over one in five – 22% – have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner and 43% have experienced some form of psychological violence by either a current or former partner.

The shocking statistics reveal that women are being abused at home, at work, in public and on-line every day across the 28 EU member states.  The full statistics, including initial comparisons for Ireland, will be revealed at a seminar hosted tomorrow (March 5th) by SAFE Ireland, the EU FRA, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, and Rape Crisis Network Ireland (Mansion House, 10:15 am to 2 pm).

Patricia Prendiville, Irish Board member of the EU FRA, said: “The figures in this survey cannot and should not be ignored.  Physical sexual and psychological violence against women is an extensive human rights abuse in all EU member states including Ireland.”

The FRA survey on violence against women is based on face-to-face interviews with 42,000 women, including 1,500 Irish women, aged between 18 and 74.  The women were interviewed in their own homes.   The survey is the most comprehensive worldwide on women’s experience of violence.

The survey also reveals that over half of all women (55%) have experienced some form of sexual harassment with one in three victims saying that the perpetrator was a boss, colleague or customer.  One in three women – 33% – have childhood experiences of physical or sexual violence at the hands of an adult.

For more information contact: Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-2935207

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