The murder of Ashling Murphy has drawn universal focus on what we can do as a nation to combat violence against women and girls. We honour Ashling with our commitment to end men’s violence against women.
Clíona Saidlear, RCNI executive Director said:
‘We have not yet built and secured an infrastructure commensurate with the scale of the problem of men’s violence against women but this is the moment that government can choose to deliver. If, as has been claimed repeatedly this week, this is a ‘watershed’ moment, we must lay out clearly the changes we need.’
A review of the infrastructure that supports survivors of domestic and sexual violence is where we start. The DSGBV audit that was completed last summer has yet to be actioned.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has been a determined advocate on violence against women while she has been in office. From Department of Justice-led public awareness campaigns such as #StillHere and #NoExcuses, to the Supporting The Victim’s Journey initiative implementing the recommendations put forward in Tom O’Malley’s report Review of Protections for Vulnerable Witnesses In the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Offences, she has been a proactive and dynamic leader and we commend her for her efforts.
RCNI supports the development of dedicated Ministry to address men’s Violence Against Women to ensure that the type of leadership shown by Minister McEntee remains structured into Government in the coming decades. The Ministry would be responsible for funding, supports and resources from Government as well ensuring the building of knowledge and expertise, fostering and enabling learning and solutions.
Knowledge and Expertise
The DSGBV Government audit of 2021 recommended a DSGBV Office that would include ‘the provision of supports to services and policy makers; opportunities to reflect, learn and continually improve effectiveness, support to develop relationships, skills and innovation and the provision of spaces for the “frank conversations” that are necessary from time to time to reach agreement on difficult issue.’ We need clarity from the government on how the forthcoming National Strategy is going to respond to the findings of the Audit.
It is vital that the knowledge and expertise accrued by NGOs working in DSGBV frontline services informs this Ministry’s decisions. NGOs and professionals should be provided with the means that will enable them to dedicate adequate staff time and resources to the vital work of evidence building, collaboration and developing solutions.
Currently funding for frontline services that support women affected by violence is ad hoc and insecure.
- Adequacy of Funding for Survivors: There is currently year-long waiting lists for survivors seeking therapy in Rape Crisis Centres around the country and these lists are growing.
- Funding must be multiannual and sustained. In order for Centres to provide survivors with a commitment to remain with them in their journey in confronting the impact of the trauma they carry in their lives, funding must be secure and sustainable to ensure retention of staff and specialization.
- Developing evidence and solutions: building specialization to understand and develop solutions to rape culture, rape myths and systemic hurdles, requires secure employment conditions to enable the development of the skills needed to build evidence and analysis.
- Training: All professionals responding to sexual violence with the appropriate specialisation. This includes specialisation for counsellors and therapists. The profession must be regulated and the sector resourced to set, train in and meet professional standards.
- Advocacy: Every survivor engaging with the criminal justice system is entitled to a professional advocate. Government must fund the Rape Crisis National Advocacy programme pilot to transform the current volunteer led services to this professional footing.
- Culture: the Department of Education must develop and implement a national policy on sexual harassment and assault in schools.
- Statistics: All sectors and agencies must deliver comprehensive statistical data on the parts of the problem that are visible to them. This action must be prioritised and resourced.
- The government must continue to support the CSO work in developing the national Sexual Violence survey and repeating it on a regular basis.
Recently published RCNI reports