“Domestic violence isn’t a crime” – Offaly campaigner

Written 3 years ago by Rebecca Donnelly

Over 200 Irish women have died violently in the last 20 years, sparking a new campaign to raise awareness of domestic abuse. The vast majority were killed by men known to them. Will Faulkner this morning divided opinion among listeners when he questioned the emphasis on gender when the offending issue is ultimately violence.

He asked Anne Clarke from Offaly Domestic Violence Support Services how the demonisation of men is helpful. “I don’t think it’s demonising men at all. I think it’s about opening a conversation and making men accountable. Instead of asking why doesn’t she leave or why does she stay in the relationship, it’s asking the question about why the man is perpetrating violence or why the woman is living in fear.” Ms Clarke added that the majority of violence is perpetrated by men against women.

Will again contested the emphasis on gender. “The issue is violence and most right thinking people will agree, I hope, that domestic violence, whoever carries it out, is repugnant and objectionable but why is it relevant to single out one gender over another?”

In what became a tense exchange, he continued: “Is it relevant to ask how many of these men might be travellers? How many of these men might be black? How many of these men might be Muslim or even in a union? I’ve listed most grounds for discrimination there and I presume you agree their ethnicity is irrelevant, their race is irrelevant, their religion is irrelevant, their union membership is irrelevant. Is gender the only matter here that’s relevant?”

Ms Clarke hit back to say she agrees the central issue is violence but one in four women will be abused, much higher than the equivalent figure for men. “We have helped 170 women at our service this year but we might have seen only ten men.”

After the conversation shifted to what neighbours, friends and relatives can watch out for, Ms Clarke advised approaching the situation with care. “You have to wait until the person is ready and a woman can leave up to seven times before she builds up the courage to take that final step. It can be a long process for some women”. She recommended contacting a support service for advicee on individual cases or social services if there is a risk to children.

Will questioned the role of the Gardaí can play. “They can’t do anything unless it’s a complaint from the person”, Anne replied before stunning listeners with the legal position. “Domestic violence isn’t a crime. What’s a crime is if you assault somebody or if you are stalking or whatever – they are all individual offenses but domestic violence itself is not a crime.”

Click below to hear a short segment from the debate, including whether an opposing campaign to highlight crimes committed by women would be considered acceptable.