Support for abused women vital to negotiate legal system

Women experiencing domestic violence have identified assistance from a domestic violence service as a vital support in accessing and negotiating the legal system to obtain protection from an abusive partner or ex-partner.

Research launched recently by Ivana Bacik on behalf of SAFE Ireland, the national representative body for 40 domestic violence services in Ireland, highlights the stories of 13 women and their experiences of engaging with the Gardai, the legal system, the Courts Service and the judiciary.

While some women had positive experiences at different stages of the process, others did not, and these women highlighted issues such as difficulty getting to make statements, lack of follow up regarding breaches of orders, and difficulties negotiating the court system. Things that women identified as being helpful were: being taken seriously when they disclosed abuse, ongoing follow up from the gardai in relation to their case, and being prepared for what would happen in court.

“In order to access legal protection, women will have to negotiate a variety of tasks, making a statement, accessing Legal Aid, making applications for orders, and preparing for and appearing in court,” according to Wendy Heuston, manager of COPE Galway Waterside House which provides refuge and outreach services to women and their children experiencing domestic violence.

“This process can be a daunting experience, and the response women encounter at each stage of the journey can often determine whether they will continue to engage with and have faith in the justice system to protect them”

Waterside House staff carried out 160 accompaniments to court last year with women using their service in a variety of applications including protection, safety and barring orders as well as access and custody issues in the aftermath of an abusive relationship.

Any woman currently in an abusive relationship who would like support can contact Waterside House 091-565985.

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