In 2023, Ireland’s emergency hotline was flooded with a staggering 60,000 cries for help, testament to the country’s domestic violence epidemic. Police responded to a report every 10 minutes.
According to The Irish Mirror, approximately 59,625 emergency hotline calls reporting domestic violence were recorded on the GardaPULSE System that has been operating since 1999. The reports encompassed a range of incidents, among them assault, coercive control and violations of various protective orders.
The Government’s Response
To tackle the shocking and ongoing domestic violence crisis, Ireland’s Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is working to implement a much needed Zero Tolerance Strategy. In September 2023, she unveiled a Bill aimed at establishing a statutory agency focused on addressing, preventing, and decreasing incidents of domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence (DSGBV). The Bill also seeks to provide effective support for victim-survivors of these crimes.
Minister McEntee said:
“I am committed to our goal of having Zero Tolerance of domestic, sexual and gender based violence and am determined to deliver real reforms which last. Recent Garda figures show the majority of homicides in this country have had a domestic abuse motivation. Unfortunately, we are all sadly familiar with all too regular stories of abuse and violence against women.”
A Step In The Right Direction
A statutory agency can play a vital role in dealing with societal challenges. They are created to provide services that require a formal legal mandate. Moreover, they can enforce regulations by leveraging their legal authority, expertise, resources, and partnership networks to implement specific interventions, promote compliance with laws, and support the well-being of individuals and communities.
In January 2024, Minister McEntee revealed that a funding allocation of more than €7.7 million would be distributed to 70 domestic violence organizations to support victims. The government’s acknowledgement of the domestic violence epidemic is a step forward as is its allocation of funding to tackle the issue. It is imperative to safeguard victim-survivors.
Solving The Underlying Issue
Domestic violence experts underscore the importance of a holistic approach that includes addressing its root cause: perpetrators.
Safe Ireland urges a comprehensive strategy:
“There is a need to shift from conventional public awareness campaigns towards more meaningful measures that address the root causes of violence against women and bring about a radical transformation in attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. Responsibility must extend beyond role of the State to also include the judiciary, the private sector and the media, as well as geographic and interest-based communities. Government must create the conditions for such initiatives and provide resources to support their development. Until there is a whole-of-society approach to prevention and mitigation of violence and coercion, we will be forever focused on unsustainable prosecutory and protectionist interventions.”
The Elephant in the Room
One of the distinguishing features of domestic violence is that it is brought about entirely by the attitudes and beliefs of its perpetrators. In other words, it is driven by chosen supremacist ideologies not mental health issues. In fact, studies show that the mental landscape of people who perpetrate domestic violence is no different than non-violent people.
It is their misguided sense of entitlement in tandem with their superiority complex that leads them to believe they have a right to enforce their will on others through harmful acts. Their coercion, control and violence are demonstrations of a belief that they have the right to take away the rights of their victims at will. Moreover, perpetrators of domestic violence have confidence that society will reinforce and enable their convictions. Sadly, they are seldom proven wrong. Most domestic violence perpetrators go through life as strangers to consequence while victims remain strangers to justice.
The 60,000 domestic violence police reports in 2023 is a wakeup call. It shows the urgent need for immediate action that addresses the underlying issue: the attitudes and beliefs of perpetrators. It is essential to support and protect victims and it is equally important that society participates to make the Zero Tolerance policy as reality. Only by uniting policymakers, law enforcement agencies, community leaders, and individuals in opposition to ideologies that perpetuate domestic violence can we hope to bring an end to it.