An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD said that he was “one for reality and the truth” when he made a commitment to meet the challenge of the enormous problem of domestic violence in Mayo and Ireland.
Launching the MAN UP Campaign for Mayo Women’s Support Services (MWSS ) in Castlebar on Friday, May 3, he gave his support to the campaign and the importance of it reaching all communities and homes throughout Mayo.
Tommy Marren from Midwest Radio acting as MC for the event commented that when he was asked what MAN UP meant to him, as a man, he responded by saying, “As a broadcaster who has been dealing with this as a taboo subject for far too long, it’s nice to see we’ve moved the emphasise away from solely the victim to the perpetrator.” He also said that going forward we can “find solutions to the problem of domestic violence against women and children”.
Josephine McGourty, manager of MWSS, told the Taoiseach that nearly 600 families sought support from the service in 2011/2012. Of these, she reported that 109 women and 252 children had to access refuge accommodation because home was no longer a safe place to be. She also reported that the numbers of children, and particularly young children and babies, living in refuge in Mayo had continued to increase over the past years. But too often, she said, the perpetrator remains invisible and their crime goes unpunished.
“I’d like to think we could make an impact on this,” An Taoiseach said in response. “I’d like to think we could measure up in part at least to the challenge set out here. I’m one for reality and the truth. That’s what I deal with every day. Let’s see if we can make an impact, and be world leaders. This is our common humanity. I intend to make a difference and I accept your challenge.”
Sharon O’Halloran, CEO of SAFE Ireland, the network of frontline domestic violence services which includes the Mayo Women’s Support Services told the Taoiseach that there are “many men living in our communities that have raped and assaulted women on a daily or weekly basis who have never been charged with their crimes”. She said that there were thousands of men who subjected women and children to live in war zones.
“For all these women and children home is where the hurt is and leaving home is often not an option but a step into poverty, community silence, community shame and years of battling for justice in a system that fails women daily,” she added.
The Taoiseach was launching MAN UP, a new campaign to change the face of domestic violence. For the first time in a domestic violence campaign in Ireland, MAN UP switches the focus from the needs and views of women – mostly women and children – to the actions and words of those who control and abuse women and children – mostly men.
MAN UP is designed by SAFE Ireland members to lift the lid on the behaviour of the small number of men who abuse or control women and children. It is supported by three short web videos which can be viewed on mwss.ie and safeireland.ie/manup MAN UP was launched nationally in late 2012. Mayo is one of the first counties in the country to roll the campaign out at a local level. The Mayo Women’s Support Services have also held a MAN UP day at GMIT and held a MAN UP fundraising night of music in Westport.
In 2011, nearly 8,000 women and over 3,000 children looked for safety and support from a domestic violence service in Ireland. That’s an increase of 56 per cent in the number of women looking for safety since comprehensive records were first compiled by SAFE Ireland in 2007 and represents a 15 per cent increase in numbers since 2010 alone. The latest statistics continue a consistent and unsustainable climb upwards in demand according to the network of over 40 frontline services.