The number of women seeking accommodation from Waterside House, the city based refuge for women experiencing domestic violence, rose by 44 per cent in the first six months of this year.
The revelation comes as COPE Galway, which runs the centre and local outreach service for women and children, launches a campaign to highlight global opposition to violence against women. The annual iniatitive runs until December 10.
The need to highlight domestic violence is as vital as ever, says Wendy Houston, the manager of Waterside House.
“From January to June, 78 women and 134 children were accommodated in Waterside and a further 59 women used the outreach service. In the same period the service was unable to accommodate 110 women and 197 children who were offered referral elsewhere.”
She attributes the increase in the demand for the service to greater awareness and the demise of the Celtic Tiger years.
“While the service continues to be stretched to capacity, it is not possible to definitively say what has led to this increase. But increased public awareness and possibly the end of the Celtic Tiger are contributory factors. It is important however, that the recession is not used as an excuse to justify domestic violence. Today we are saying ‘There are no excuses.’”
This year Waterside House is running a poster campaign and, in a departure from previous years, it is being fronted by men.
“The reason for having men front the campaign is that violence against women is very much a man’s issue as well as a woman’s issue. Activism at a level that will bring about real change in attitudes cannot be achieved by women alone. Men are part of the problem and must also be part of the solution.”
She says it is also important for men to be represented in a positive way regarding violence against women.
“Often men are mentioned almost exclusively as perpetrators of the violence but in fact they can have a key role as allies and supporters of women highlighting and addressing the issue.”
The awareness campaign poster which was launched recently by the Connacht Rugby squad carries the tagline ‘Real men say there are no excuses for violence against women. The reference to the term “real men” is to draw attention to the fact that generally sportsmen provide positive role models for many men, according to COPE. They are ideally placed to deliver powerful messages about men’s behaviour.
“All men can support this campaign by not remaining silent, by challenging sexist behaviour and attitudes in other men both in the personal and public spheres and by not condoning any behaviour which hurts, disrespects or degrades women in any way,” says Wendy Heuston.
For further information on the work of COPE Galway Waterside House contact (091 ) 565985 or email [email protected]