Action plan to stop domestic abuse in Northern Ireland revealed

An action plan on Northern Ireland’s seven-year strategy to end domestic abuse and sexual violence in Northern Ireland, has been revealed.

But a lack of funding could make the implementation of the plan impossible according to SDLP Policing and Justice spokesperson Dolores Kelly.

Both the Department of Health and Justice yesterday revealed a three year plan to improve services on the issue.

It includes consideration of a domestic abuse criminal charge, a new domestic violence disclosure scheme, reduction in waiting lists for help and the protection of a 24-hour helpline.

While the plan has been praised, Ms Kelly said: “It is impossible to ignore the glaringly obvious omission that without the proper resourcing it cannot be properly implemented.

“This new plan is a welcome step towards tackling domestic and sexual violence, in particular the Domestic Homicide Review process.

“However, in reality the lack of funding is going to make it impossible to implement the plan in its entirety.

“Speaking with management and board members from Women’s Aid on a regular basis, I am acutely aware that year on year, they are left to scrape the bottom of the barrel to get the funds needed to maintain their refuges and programmes.

“Likewise, it has been years since any of their staff have received a pay rise to acknowledge the very important, yet difficult job that they do, as well as not receiving any budgetary increase.

“It is unacceptable that due to the continuing political spat between Sinn Féin and DUP, that this ‘New Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Action Plan’ cannot be brought into legislation. Victims of domestic abuse should not be left to wait.

“Without functioning institutions and an Assembly and Executive to pass and implement legislation, victims of domestic abuse are being let down.”

All forms of domestic and sexual violence are serious crimes, with more serious cases ending in the death of victims.

The Department for Health and Department of Justice have joined forces in a bid to end the hidden blight on our society.

They said: “Domestic violence and abuse is when a current or former partner or family member is violent or abusive to you.

“We want a society where this type of violence and abuse is not accepted.

“Domestic and sexual violence and abuse can happen to anyone. Any age, any race, any religion, any ability, girl or boy, whether you’re attracted to females or males.”

While many see domestic violence as physical abuse, it can also include verbal and emotional abuse such a partner threatening to kill themselves if you split up or making threats against you or others.

Embarrassing you in private or in front of others, controlling behaviour, stalking and constant nagging about the amount of time you spend together can also be considered emotionally abusive.

Then there is physical and sexual voilence.

This can include pushing, punching, kicking, slapping or choking, cutting, burning, biting and forced sexual activity.