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An Independent Social Affairs Magazine

Insight into domestic abuse

Issue 46, 2018


Nearly 30,000 incidents reported in Northern Ireland last year alone Supported by

Funds needed to fight domestic abuse

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he long-running radio drama The Archers looked at the topic of coercive control. I was gripped by how this story played out on the airwaves. “When the media get the right angle, that’s important,” said Professor Monica McWilliams in this edition of VIEW magazine. The sad reality is that it is happening to a neighbour or friend in the real world but due to the stigma they cannot admit this type of abuse is happening behind closed doors. “We call it intimate partner violence, as ‘domestic’ sounds cosy,” Professor McWilliams told our reporter Jane Hardy. We must name and shame this terrible crime. The level of domestic abuse is now like a “pandemic”, according to Catherine Ferrin, who leads a team working in outreach with Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid. You can read Catherine’s interview

By Una Murphy VIEW co-founder/publisher Email:

with the new deputy editor of VIEW, Kathryn Johnston. Judith Gillespie, the former Deputy Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, told VIEW editor Brian

Pelan that “legislation has not moved with the times and it needs to do that”. The stigma stops women – they make up most the victims – as well as men coming forward. The sad fact is that a woman may have suffered a domestic incident up to 35 times before she seeks help.The common denominator between victims, either women or men, gay or straight, is that they must be supported to get out of toxic relationships that can not only lead to mental and physical harm but even death. Decades ago law makers earmarked public funds to end the lives lost and the damage done by drink-driving. They must put more funds into fighting domestic abuse. There is no excuse not to. We are very grateful for all the support in this edition from our guest editor, Kelly Andrews the Chief Executive of Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid.

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Contact Una Murphy at if you enjoy our work and want to know more about becoming a VIEWdigital champion Contact VIEW editor Brian Pelan at Contact VIEW deputy editor Kathryn Johnson at Contact VIEW publisher Una Murphy at Regulated by IMPRESS, the independent monitor for the press. Contact IMPRESS at

Editorial VIEW, Issue 46, 2018


e live in a society where domestic violence remains a serious problem. It has wide-ranging effects on physical and emotional health, well-being and family life. Domestic violence is a repeat crime that increases in severity over time. This places women and children at increased risk of harm, injury and death. Even with awareness raising, it remains shrouded in secrecy, fear and shame. This I know very well. From the ages of 10 to 16, my mother and I lived with her partner. He was physically violent and emotionally abusive to her, eroding her self-esteem. We lived in an environment that was controlling and oppressive. Research suggests that on average women are assaulted 35 times before seeking help, reflecting its complex and hidden nature. My own experience illustrates this. On occasions, neighbours called the police to our door. There were no referrals to Women’s Aid, no referrals to social services or no Operation Encompass to inform my school. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that two women die every week because of domestic violence. Tragically, three women died in Northern Ireland during the last year. Through the work of Women’s Aid we seek to challenge attitudes and beliefs that perpetuate domestic violence; we offer safety and support leading to empowerment and to a life free from domestic violence. There are a range of support services available to victims of domestic and sexual violence. The 24-hour regional Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline – 0808 802 1414 – is available to all victims of domestic and sexual violence. Specialist trained staff offer a listening ear and can make referrals to local Women’s Aid services or to partner agencies such as Nexus and the Men’s Advisory Project. We at Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid provide a range of life-saving services, from crisis refuge accommodation to counselling and support services. The number of women and children we support evidences the continued need for our services. We have an outreach team that provide services to women within local communities. The period April 2016

VIEW, an independent social affairs magazine in Northern Ireland


By guest editor Kelly Andrews, Chief Executive, Belfast-Lisburn Women’s Aid

I passionately believe no one should suffer in silence or isolation. We must speak out if we are ever to achieve our vision of eliminating domestic and sexual violence against women and children

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to March 2017, 303 women and 226 children were housed across our refuge service; 758 women and 2,048 children were supported through our outreach service. We are proud to be able to provide high-quality, life-changing intervention and support services. 205 women completed our ‘Journey to Freedom’ programme and 203 attended our ‘New Beginnings’ programme. Through our children’s services 328 children participated in group work, 1,524 in one to one support sessions held for children. We also provide court support to women who are navigating the legal system. In early 2016, the Department of Justice consulted on whether there should be a specific offence, which captured patterns of coercive and controlling behaviour. Following this consultation the Department of Justice began preparing a Domestic Abuse Bill, which it continues to develop. This Bill aims to provide for a new domestic abuse offence capturing patterns of psychological abuse, violence, and/or coercion of a partner, former partner or close family member. It also includes a statutory aggravation of domestic abuse, which may attract enhanced sentencing for other offences. The enactment of this Bill is subject to the legislative process, which is stalled due to the suspension of the Assembly. In the absence of a functioning Executive, Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid will continue to work with our sister Women’s Aid groups to lobby for a Domestic Abuse Bill for Northern Ireland. I passionately believe no one should suffer in silence or isolation. We must speak out if we are ever to achieve our vision of eliminating domestic and sexual violence against women and children. We must continue to challenge societal attitudes and patriarchal structures that perpetuate gender-based violence. My own childhood experience has led me to Women’s Aid and the vitally important services that free and empower women and children from the horror that is domestic violence. In the words of Malala Yousafzai (a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate): “I tell my story not because it’s unique, because it is not.” I strive for the day when it is.

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involve really personal and intimate details of the relationship with your partner.

Q: Do you agree that finding closure and justice can be an agonising process for the victim?

A: Lots of research will say that women are assaulted many, many times before they report it to the police. Arguably, between one in four women will experience some sort of domestic violence.

the BIG interview

Judith Gillespie,the former Deputy Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, talks to VIEW editor Brian Pelan about the steps needed to tackle domestic violence and the difficult period in her own life when she suffered online abuse

Question: Are our laws on domestic violence fit for purpose?

Answer: The short answer is no When you consider that offences of violence are still prosecuted under the old 1861 Offences against the Person Act. It’s only recently in Northern Ireland that sentencing for so-called common assault increased from a maximum of three months imprisonment to six months imprisonment. And that only happened in 2011. And when you consider how domestic abuse has developed or how our awareness of domestic abuse has developed to include the likes of non-violent, coercive and controlling behaviour. Legislation has not moved with the times and it needs to do that.

Q: Why have we not introduced legislation in Northern Ireland on controlling and coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship, similar to England and Wales which was introduced in December 2015?

A: The simple answer to that is because we don’t have an Executive, we don’t have a minister, we don’t have an Assembly currently. So whilst we are in that situation we can’t have new legislation passed. Even though there had been very considerable progress made to introducing that legislation. There was a consultation process, there was a draft Bill – we were very close to having that introduced – but unfortunately, when the Executive and the Assembly collapsed, all the draft legislation remains in draft, and that’s very frustrating.

Q: Should Westminster implement domestic violence legislation in Northern Ireland if we return to direct rule?

A: I think most people would prefer to see a working Assembly here and local legislation being introduced by a local

Across western European society, there’s still this attitude of ‘They must have asked for it, they must have done something to provoke it’

Justice Minister, but in the absence of that – if that’s the only way we can protect victims by having legislation passed – then of course.

A: It’s really difficult to come into a police station and make a statement or a complaint against the person that you love. On top of that you’ve got all the pressure from your partner, from their family, from the community. Maybe it means that you’re going to have to leave your home. And the impact that has financially. And also the length of time it takes for the case to proceed through the courts, so it’s not going to be weeks. In some cases it’s not even going to be months. In some cases, it could take years. So in the meantime, you’re still undergoing all of this pressure – this emotional pressure to withdraw your statement and to just move on with your life. So it’s a painful process and then when you eventually have to get into the courtroom and tell your story in open court… that can be really painful and can

Do some of us look the other way because we do not want to get involved?

Across western European society, there’s still this attitude of “They must have asked for it, they must have done something to provoke it”. And also the sense of “It’s a private matter, I don’t want to get involved. I’m sure they’ll make up. Isn’t it better for the children if they stay together?” We have that kind of attitude. You get it right throughout society; not just in churches or in faith groups. A case of “is it not better that the police don’t get involved and is it not better that you withdraw the statement?” Q: Do you believe that many victims still don't report domestic abuse?

Q: Superintendent Ryan Henderson from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) recently said: “The big challenge for us is that perpetrators only see a courtroom in three out of 10 cases.” Why is this?

A: Well, once again you can say that in cases of domestic abuse, it’s rarely that you don’t know who the perpetrator is. Nine times out of 10 you’ll know who the suspect is, you’ll know who the perpetrator is. The key part of the investigation is the sensitivity with which you deal with the victim and the witnesses, and in particular when the witnesses are children. Many, many victims live in real

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Judith Gillespie: “I think that big strides have been made in dealing with domestic abuse” fear.Very often some victims would say that’s almost worse than the physical assault. It’s the fear of what might happen Also not every victim wants to go to court. They want to stop the abuse and they want to feel safe at home but they don’t necessarily want to see them prosecuted. There is still, whether we like it or not, there is still a stigma attached to people who are victims of domestic abuse.

Q: What could be done better in making sure that more abusers are prosecuted?

A: If we talk about rape in the context of domestic abuse there is always the issue of consent and that makes it incredibly difficult to prosecute. The good thing is that the Public Prosecution Service have specific guidelines for prosecuting in domestic abuse and rape cases. There is a domestic abuse court pilot scheme taking place in Derry. And that type of initiative is really helpful in showing that the criminal justice system recognises that it has to shape itself to fit the problem, not try and squeeze the problem into the current system.

Q: Do you think the pilot system in Derry should be rolled out across Northern Ireland?

A: Absolutely. It’s still a pilot but I think the early indications are very good. Q: Could the PSNI and the PPS work more effectively together?

A:You can always improve. I would never say that everything in the criminal justice system is perfect but I think big strides

It was satisfying when some of the folk who wrote really defamatory nasty, stuff about me ended up going through the criminal courts or the civil courts have been made. And when I think about when I joined the RUC in the early 1980s, the attitude towards domestic violence has changed significantly. It is now recognised as a crime that needs specialist investigators, specialist support for victims, inter-agency partnerships and public protection teams.The Rowan (a sexual assault referral centre) is a partnership between health and justice. That’s the sort of partnership that we need.

Q: You have sued in the past over online slurs made against you. What are your views on this type of abuse?

A: Women in high-profile positions are always subject to very personal abuse. It is

not exclusive to women, but it is more common with women. The abuse is about their appearance, their dress, their shoes, their personal lives and their family. I had very personal abuse and it lasted for a couple of years. Unfortunately the initial advice that was given to me was “just ignore it, Judith. It’s not that serious. It’ll go away, don’t worry about it”. It was probably the worst advice I could have got, because it got worse and it spread. Social media obviously is the way in which these things spread. It was a deeply unpleasant period in my police career but I have learned that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’m a very resilient person, and it was satisfying when some of the folk who wrote really defamatory, nasty, personally abusive stuff about me ended up going through the criminal courts or the civil courts. The beautiful thing about it was when payments of compensation were made I insisted that they go to charities that supported women. And I thought that was delicious. Q: How do make serious inroads into tackling domestic abuse since it is so prevalent across all classes in society? A: A lot of it is about power, control and gender issues. I think the more it’s talked about and the more that we can accept that it is nothing to do with the victim is a good thing. The first time it happens it’s acceptable to go and seek help, it’s acceptable to go and get support. Legislation cannot protect everybody all of the time, but I think legislation is a statement that domestic abuse is not acceptable.

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ot in death, but just in sleep, the fateful prophecy you’ll keep, and from this slumber you shall wake, when true loves kiss, the spell shall break

Guilty of flashes of conceit and recklessness his mind spirals into the wildest cryptic moods. The moment he knows I’m really hurt he rushes to my side to bind up his wounds.

He plays out his sensitivity and uses his gentlemanly charms to instantly bring out my femininity, I can see his immaturity and how it brings out his nasty negative fiery side, yet somehow he has managed to convince me he has a courageous mind.

He doesn't sacrifice his deception, has no time for reflection, you see he enjoys the tension. His high degree of dishonesty and rage I dare not mention. He emotionally pulls us apart, and when the sun finally sets, it’s time for the dark.

Then comes the physical demonstration of his affection, his actions quickly turn into sinister intentions. I feel the huge shadow of his masculinity, the ecstasy of his love soon turns into something close akin to agony. You see I failed to comply with his demands and after his angry words of accusation he lifted his hands, he created and imagined incidents of disloyalty telling me I committed infidelity. He knows it’s not true, he just enjoys leaving me black and blue.

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The Darkest Hour Written by Michelle Downey, left Copyright – PatriciaDowney, © Everything that happens never makes any sense, with every bruise I accepted it was never meant, he used to be psyched that he had me in his life, he became so psyched that night he held me to the ground with a knife, telling me that this time he was going to take my life.

He took all my money and smashed up my phone making sure I had no way of contacting home. He didn't want my family seeing his nasty wounds because he knew once they found out his life would be doomed. This male had me beaten physically and emotionally groomed!

He pulls me on the ground and kicks me in the face, he laughs as I’m screaming ‘someone help me get out of this place’ my head is so sore and swollen but yet I always stand tall, bruised arms and shoulders from when he pushed me against the wall. He made me face him awaiting him to pounce, like a wild hungry beast hunting a little mouse, I try to fight back and push him away, and he smirks at me cruelly like I’m provoking him to play.

I’m on the bed and he has his hands around my throat, I’m losing consciousness, heads spinning like a capsizing boat. I lay there lifeless; I don’t want to breathe, feeling that death is near makes me relieved. He makes me wish he would take my life, it doesn't scare me anymore that he has that knife; I fantasise how to kill him with it as he holds my hair tight.

He’s reached for the pillow and

is smothering my face, his angry hot temper I can bitterly taste. I stop myself from screaming and he lets me gasp for air, he rants on about a Facebook message, some fella complimented my hair. He laughs at me and teases me to run only if I dare, of course I make my move and in a flash of a second he’s pulled and gripped and ripped out my hair. You deserve this, he shouts. Fair is fair. I scream hysterically and he punches me in the face, lifts the TV and starts trashing the place, the door is barricaded and I’m locked in, I’m imagining my body being identified by my next of kin. Black eyes, strangle marks, bruises all over my body. Once he snaps out of it he forces me to accept his apology. He allows me to shower and I wash away all the shame somehow he has managed to convince me that I am to blame. I’m living this life with the fear of being wrong, His thunder comes at me like a raging cannonball. I never fight back because he’s always too strong. Terror runs through me every night, destroyed and embarrassed I don’t put up a fight. I accept that he abuses me....... “It’s alright”.........

Not in death, but just in sleep, the fateful prophecy I'll keep, and from this slumber I shall wake, when true loves kiss, the spell shall break

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Artistic director Patricia Downey, left, and, above, a poster for the drama Mind Games

Throwing a Spanner into the Works

Theatre director and writer Patricia Downey talks to VIEW editor Brian Pelan about her play ‘Mind Games’, which looks at domestic violence and the devastating effects it has on relationships


panner in the Works is an eye-catching name for a Northern Ireland theatre company which thrives on tackling difficult issues. One of its productions, Mind Games, which looks at domestic violence and its effects, was written by Belfast woman Patricia Downey, who is also the founder and the director of the company which was founded nearly 20 years ago with a vision of providing more roles for women. The play is being brought to Boston and Philadelphia later this year in conjuction with the Every Great Reason Foundation – an organisation in the United States that tackles domestic violence. Among the places it will be seen include universities and a women's prison. Mind Games has also been performed at a number of venues across Ireland. Ms Downey, who writes all of the plays for Spanner in the Works, said: “Mind Games looks at the relationship between a

mother and daughter and how great it is. But then her daughter starts to go out with a man who subjects her to physical and mental abuse. The daughter is too embarrassed to tell her mother about the violence. The play looks at how the relationship between the mother and her daughter becomes strained. “When the mother finds out about the abuse she encourages her daughter to take the man to court, The abuser is convicted and is sentenced to two years. Because the convictions against him ran concurrently and because he is entitled to serve only half the sentence, he is freed from jail after nine months. “When he gets out he kidnaps the girl and holds her hostage. He is put back into prison, but once again only serves nine months of a two-year sentence. In the final scene the mother tells a domestic violence officer that the abuser is going to kill someone.

The play also looks at how the daughter is supported by Women's Aid during her time in a hostel. Patricia said she wants to see domestic violence legislation implemented in Northern Ireland. “Some mothers try to warn their daughters but it's very difficult as everything is about evidence of abuse,” she said. “We need to have a database implemented here, similar to the sex offenders register. That would mean that women in relationships or about to enter a relationship could access information to see if their partner/potential partner has been convicted of domestic abuse. “It's good that more women are speaking out about the abuse. For a long time it was hidden as many women felt too ashamed to speak out.” Patricia seems determined to keep throwing a 'spanner into the works'.

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On the frontline

Helpline manager Sonya McMullan with some of her team

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Sometimes you have to get a woman out of her house and into a refuge in 10 minutes. This is because domestic violence can rapidly spiral out of control, putting victims in danger, sometimes of their lives

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Sonya McMullan, manager of the 24-hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline in Northern Ireland, tells Jane Hardy that the service urgently needs more funding


espite the shocking rise in cases of domestic abuse to a record 30,000 in 2016-2017, Women's Aid has not had a rise in funding for six years. Sonya McMullan, manager of their 24hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline, said that the team deals with explosive situations. “Sometimes you have to get a woman out of her house and into a refuge in 10 minutes. This is because domestic violence can rapidly spiral out of control, putting victims in danger, sometimes of their lives.” Sonya added: “Home may not be a safe space for people. Domestic abuse is physical, psychological, financial and sexual, and there are very high levels of sexual violence involved.” Domestic abuse is a growing problem with more than 30,000 domestic abuse cases reported by the Police Service of Northern Ireland in 2016-2017. Around 30 percent of rape cases in the same period involved partners or ex-partners. Sonya said: “It's the last taboo and often the last thing callers will talk about, but I think the helpline gives people the space to discuss difficult things.” There is no typical day for the 10 listeners at the Women’s Aid HQ in University Street, Belfast. The staff may take up to 100 calls in a shift, with an average tally of 7,000 phone calls to the helpline over a three-month period. Some are for a few minutes, others can last up to an hour. A proportion of the women who ring require referrals, some simply need a “listening ear”.

First time callers such as ‘Anelka’ (not her real name) may have been putting up with abusive relationships for decades. She phoned the helpline after nearly three decades of emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of her husband. She said she was dependent on alcohol and prescribed medicines and had made an attempt to end her life. Her one reason for optimism was her grandson, who she loved dearly. Since Sonya began as a listener on the Women’s Aid Helpline, things have changed. “The biggest change is the complexity of cases with mental illness, addiction and homelessness all pressures. Then there’s the question of fundraising and resources.” Their annual budget of £333,000 comes from a range of sources: the Department of Health, the Department of Justice and the Housing Executive. Women's Aid has had no increase for over six years. “There has been no upturn, no more money in that time from the government, although we took on extra sexual violence work in March 2014,” said Sonya.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK and Ireland without a rape crisis network or helpline. In order to gain the right skills to deliver the expanded helpline, Sonya and her colleagues undertook extra training. “Some people don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like and we get women returning to the refuge who were there as children. In fact, some callers are not aware they are being abused. The jealousy and isolation begin when he says: ‘I love you and want you all to myself.’ This may then become a cycle.” There is also no core funding for work with children in families affected by abuse. The deadlock at Stormont has had an impact too, said Sonya. “There are at least five pieces of legislation affecting domestic abuse that haven’t gone through.” ‘Coercive control’ in some abusive relationships is now a crime elsewhere in the UK, but not here. “You still get post-Troubles women who are afraid to name men who are connected. I have known some women who are controlled by men in prison,” added Sonya. “We’ve had to make radical decisions and are at a point where we can’t do training or develop. It may come to a point if we have the same funding that we can’t afford to pay the same amount of staff.” Then the helpline’s 24-hour existence might be at risk. “And, as we know, domestic and sexual violence doesn’t just happen between the hours of 9am to 5pm.”

Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid

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It’s never too late to break free from domestic violence

Social media can put pressure on young women to remain in toxic relationships.

By Sarah Bruce Belfast & Lisburn Women’s Aid Engagement Worker


omestic violence does not conform to the stereotypical victim. It spans all spectrums of race, gender, sexual orientation, social status and age. It thrives on the manifestation of power and coercive control and can include physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse. Perpetrators entrap victims in a cycle of violence which makes leaving extremely difficult and dangerous. Effects can be wide-ranging and every woman that we engage with has her own horror story and personal barriers to overcome. At Women’s Aid, we hear echoes of the abuse experienced by a woman in her early 20s and another woman at a later stage in her life. Regardless of age, victims of domestic violence live in fear, terror and torment on a daily basis which can have a profound and lasting impact on a woman and her children. One distinction we must make is that a younger woman’s experience of domestic violence and that of an older woman can be noticeably different with different obstacles. Without generalisation, we recognise the

importance of adapting support measures to enable us to engage effectively with women in all chapters of their lives. Societal perceptions of young people in relationships can have an impact on young women experiencing domestic violence. The perceptions that relationships are commonly volatile and unstable mean they’re often normalised and trivialised, making coming forward all the more difficult through fear they will not be believed. We understand that young people often don’t identify themselves as being in an abusive relationship. Jealous and controlling behaviour can be masked by the façade of ‘young love’, honeymoon periods and hope that he can be fixed. There is still a stigma prevalent among young people regarding domestic violence and the sense of shame this evokes. Social media and the ‘perfect life’ it can deceivingly portray, can distort reality and put pressure on young women to remain in toxic relationships. The increase in platforms to execute revenge porn has given perpetrators a public sphere to further humiliate and degrade a victim through means of blackmail, manipulation and intimidation. Impacts can be profound,

irreversible and inescapable. Domestic violence occurs gradually and subtly. We need more awareness and education around healthy relationships so that young people can identify signs before abuse has the opportunity to escalate. In relation to the help-seeking process, we recognise the challenges younger woman can experience in relation to childcare and juggling the day-to-day appointments and practicalities as a young mother. There is often pressure from families and layers of child contact issues which can make breaking free altogether extremely difficult. Our Younger Women’s Workers are sensitive and receptive to these needs and offer understanding and flexible working with trust-building the very core of their work. One to one and group work are both aimed at being relatable to young women and contemporary enough to encourage positive participation. Support can be empowering and social – a pleasant and positive experience. At the other end of the scale, older women are often referred to as the hidden victims of domestic violence. Research has shown that one in six women over 60 years of age in Northern Ireland has

Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid

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Speaking out: We must give older women a voice and lift the curtain on domestic abuse

experienced some form of domestic violence. Similarly to younger women, it will largely impact on an older woman’s wellbeing and self-esteem. She may face similar stigma, shame and guilt but her challenges can be somewhat different to those of a younger woman. The longevity of abuse means many women grow with the acceptance of domestic violence as “that’s the way it’s always been”. It’s been her life, she knows little outside the confines of that relationship, of that home, of that life. Years of abuse can result in prolonged trauma, crippling self-blame and embedded shame which can cause long-term implications to emotional wellbeing. The frailty, disability or added health-related concerns which can affect mobility and physical strength can inhibit women from finding the emotional or physical strength to seek support. Women often acquire caring responsibilities for their abusive partners or may be financially dependent on them. With the perpetrator often asserting control over finances, when women leave, they may be leaving their possessions and their home. They can face losing everything they’ve spent their lives building. They can

still feel responsible, committed and loyal to their marriage vows, where quite often, divorce isn’t an option. She may even still love him, holding on to the happy memories of bygone times. We are still learning that, quite often, older women do not feel that support services are there for them, heightening their feelings of marginalisation and isolation. “What’s the use in speaking to someone after all this time? I’ve made my bed.” We must give older women a voice and lift the curtain on domestic violence and its older victims. Our Older Women’s Project recognises these barriers and offers a flexible outreach support for women aged 55-plus in the community. One to one and group work provide older women with a safe place to speak about their experiences, enhance self-esteem and know that they also have options for their future and are entitled to live free from abuse. Older women can draw on other’s experiences and learn that they are not alone and not to blame for domestic violence. It’s never too late. Domestic violence can exert immeasurable pain, injury and distress to a woman no matter what age. At Women’s Aid, we

listen, believe and offer non-judgmental, confidential support to all women who access our services. Our services cannot be and will not be a ‘one size fits all’ model. Each woman has a right to feel heard and her own story recognised. We work with women to assess their needs whether they require emotional, practical, safety, financial, legal or housing support. In doing so, we tailor and adapt each woman’s support plan and work with our partner agencies to ensure her individual needs are met and safeguarded. A new chapter can be written no matter what stage of the book. When we can conquer stereotypes about age and domestic violence and break down barriers to support, we can empower a woman of any age to turn the page in her life, take control of writing her own story and populate her pages with the self-worth, self-esteem and self-care she deserves. • Contact Belfast-Lisburn Women’s Aid at 02890 666049

• Contact Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline at 0808 8021414

‘There should be no borders VIEW, Issue 46, 2018

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when safeguarding children

Nursery school head teacher Elisabeth Carney-Haworth talks to VIEW journalist Una Murphy about Operation Encompass – a scheme set up to alert a school if a child has been exposed to domestic abuse

Founders of Operation Encompass: Elisabeth Carney-Haworth and her husband David Carney-Haworth


olice forces in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have been briefed about a new safeguarding scheme in England which immediately informs a child’s school when a pupil has been affected by domestic abuse. The scheme is part of Operation Encompass, a charity set up by head teacher Elisabeth Carney-Haworth and her husband David, a retired police officer. One mother told Elisabeth CarneyHaworth following domestic abuse the night before: “I didn’t want to send my baby into school that day”. The four-year-old boy was allowed to hug this teddy bear during lessons when toys would normally be put on a shelf and even during meal break, because his teacher knew he was affected by domestic

abuse, Elisabeth told VIEW magazine. Twenty-six police forces in England and Wales are part of the Operation Encompass scheme. “A child will copy behaviour of an adult they see in the home and we see it played out in class,” Elisabeth said. “This is an incredibly simple thing we can do to support the child and family to help bring an end to the cycle of domestic abuse – it needs to be as unacceptable as drink driving,” she added. It is the six-year-old boy she was not able to help because she had not received information about domestic abuse which was the catalyst for Elisabeth to set up the charity, which she runs alongside her fulltime job as a head teacher of a nursery and infant school in Cornwall. “The boy started hiding under the

table in the classroom but his mum said nothing had changed at home but we knew something had happened,” Elisabeth said. It was only later when the boy had moved on that she found out that he had witnessed “a really violent domestic abuse incident”. The scheme has spread to the Netherlands and Sydney, Australia. Elisabeth and David have spoken to police forces in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland about their charity and have given information about the Operation Encompass scheme to the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland. “There should be no borders when safeguarding children,” Elisabeth said. She added: “It is every child’s right to be safe.”

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COMMENT VIEW, Issue 46, 2018

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We can do more to make our homes secure


Alison Inman, President of the Chartered Institute of Housing, says the sector needs to reframe its thinking to help those tenants who are experiencing domestic abuse

he Chartered Institute of Housing is the professional body for housing. Our 16,000 members work across the housing sector and across the world. I have chosen Domestic Abuse as the theme of my presidential year for a simple reason. Our members build, manage and maintain great homes and there is so much more we can do to ensure that those homes are safe and secure places to live. We all know the statistics, and they aren’t getting any better. Seven women a month are killed in England and Wales by a partner or former partner. One in four women will experience domestic abuse. One in five children will be exposed to domestic abuse. Ten per cent of calls to the police are about domestic abuse. And on it goes. We all know that domestic abuse can happen to anyone, that it cuts across social class, age, etc. And it is certainly not something that only happens to people living in social housing. That said though, there is so much that social landlords can do to support any of their tenants who are experiencing abuse. We need to reframe our thinking and look at some of the seemingly

I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of housing professionals to do more to keep communities safe

straightforward housing management and maintenance issues and see if they may be telling us something extra. For instance, the first time a victim of abuse might come to the attention of her landlord may, ironically, be by being reported as a perpetrator of anti-social behaviour. A neighbour may report a noise nuisance, banging and shouting from next door. When we take these calls we need to be aware that the situation may be more complex. There is a correlation between rent arrears and financial abuse, but can we be confident that the appropriate conversations are taking place with customers before we start thinking about our rent arrears procedure? And how about repairs? Holes in walls, smashed windows, damage to bathroom doors (routinely the only place in the house with a lock) should be ringing alarm bells. Our repairs teams need the training and support they need to report and refer. I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of housing professionals to do more to keep communities safe. Let’s all work together to make it a reality.

Many women are terrified by psychological games that are played by men

VIEW, Issue 46, 2018


By Jane Hardy

he new definition of domestic abuse has helped identify serious cases and save lives, according to Professor Monica McWilliams. Ms McWilliams, who recently updated her seminal 1992 study ‘Bringing It Into the Open’ on abuse, said: “We call it intimate partner violence, as ‘domestic’ sounds cosy. The definition has changed. When I did my first study 25 years ago, it was physical violence and assaults and now it’s coercive control which includes psychological, emotional, financial (abuse). That’s really important because a lot of the women I speak to are terrified by the psychological games that are played as much as by the physical threat.” She added: “For instance, during the Troubles some of the men were playing Russian roulette and leaving marks on the women’s necks from the guns they were using. But that wouldn’t have stood up, just a little mark on the neck, as serious physical violence.Yet these women were absolutely terrified because they didn’t know that among the five bullets he was threatening to fire if one of them was live.” Progress has been made, but not enough, said Ms McWilliams: “We have had the crime of marital rape since 1994, yet in over two decades, there has been one prosecution.” In the new study, based like the original DHSS commissioned research on over 70 interviews with women, two-thirds talked of sexual assaults by their partner. On the question of why society ignores the reality of the situation, Ms McWilliams has a theory. She said: “I think it’s because they are so worried about sex discrimination, about keeping everything gender neutral, that they don’t want to

Professor Monica McWilliams

look at the actual statistics on how many men are perpetrating this and how many women.” Data isn’t broken down to make the distinction easy. “So you have to rely on the Northern Ireland crime surveys which simply ask men and women: ‘Have you been in an abusive relationship?’ The answer the men would give is Yes but they don’t ask who proactively started it. Because women do react. Often women are so truthful in these surveys, they will say ‘Yes, I pushed him, yes, I punched him. But they don’t say ‘in defence’.” The studies show a high level of male victims. Ms McWilliams added: “There are male victims but for them, the violence isn’t as severe, it’s not as consistent, it’s not as aggressive. It’s often psychological and connected to addiction issues the women have.” Statistically, we combine other forms of abuse with the intimate relation violence. “So sibling abuse, elder abuse, but in America they separate out the intimate violence as they know those are the women who are likely to be killed.” One harrowing interview in the new study concerned a brutal attack on a woman. Ms McWilliams said: “She nearly had her head cut off and was left for dead in an alleyway. She only survived because a passer-by heard her moaning. The woman didn’t know when the man would be let out of prison. That was a tough conversation.” Overall, Ms McWilliams is proud that her pioneering work changed the treatment abused women receive from professionals in Accident and Emergency and midwives. “In the past, you can see why women were silenced, people responding to them didn’t know what to do, were judgmental and often sent them back into

the same relationship – for the same thing to happen which you would not do in any other crime.” She praised the role of soap operas in raising awareness. “We’re able to name it now and the soap operas have a role. The Archers on BBC Radio 4 really turned the page when it featured the man who was incredibly controlling to the point where she stabbed him. It was found not to be intentional and was assessed in that framework. The whole country ended up talking about it.” Ms McWilliams added: “When the media get the right angle, that’s important.” She referred to the Co Cavan man who murdered his wife and four children and yet was apparently a pillar of the community. “He was a street angel, home devil and a very abusive partner. In the past, the media would have called this ‘a domestic’, with a level of impunity, but that has changed.” In a wide-ranging discussion, Professor McWilliams covered the problem of damaging attitudes among young men, the danger of GPs without enough time treating depression but not an underlying cause, and the genuine peace dividend for women who have suffered intimate partner violence. “This time, we asked them if putting away the guns had made a difference. The answer from our women from the Protestant, Catholic, ethnic minorities and Traveller communities was ‘yes’. The faith communities respond differently now too, not telling women they have to stay married: ‘You’ve made your bed, now lie in it’.” Ending on a positive note, Ms McWilliams said: “Young, educated women know they can leave a relationship if it is becoming abusive, and that’s different.”

VIEW, Issue 46, 2018

On the frontline Catherine Ferrin: Team Leader for Outreach Services for Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid

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VIEW, Issue 46, 2018

I’ve seen women coming into refuges over the years and always looking over their shoulder for where the next blow is coming from. It’s a life sentence

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Catherine Ferrin, team leader for Outreach Services for Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid, talks to journalist Kathryn Johnston about her role in helping women who are suffering domestic violence

“Remember years ago when people wore rubber bands with ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ written on them? A woman suffering domestic violence has an invisible rubber band on her wrist constantly reminding her of all the possible consequences of her every action. ‘What would Jim do? What would Sean do? Or what would Bobby do? No matter what the woman does or doesn’t do, the man will find a fault.” These words about domestic abuse were spoken by Catherine Ferrin, who is the Team Leader for Outreach Services for Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid. Her team of 22 are responsible for five projects, covering greater Belfast, Lisburn and as far out as Downpatrick and Ballynahinch. ‘“They are the most fantastic team you could work with. They are amazing,” she said. “We support women and children to be able to stay in their own home. That’s a big step, because in domestic violence families can often become homeless. I’m really excited to be doing this work where women can have the option to be able to stay at home – which means the children can keep their family pets, their toys, their bedrooms, their friends - and most importantly their schools.” “The effect of domestic violence on a family is like a tsunami,” Catherine added. “It has the potential to destroy absolutely everything.” She stressed that there is no typical woman who contacts Women’s Aid. “It can be any woman – and every woman. And the perpetrator can be any

man in any walk of life. He could be a charismatic community leader, a judge, a policeman, unemployed – it doesn’t matter.” In 2017, domestic violence incidents reported to the Police Service of Northern Ireland reached an all-time high of 30,000. “That’s not an epidemic, it’s a pandemic,” Catherine said “Those figures cover 30,000 incidents which were actually reported to the PSNI. But police statistics indicate that a woman may have suffered a domestic incident up to 35 times before seeking help. “A woman suffering domestic violence may ring the police because she wants the hurt, the pain, the grief to stop. “But she also wants to live. To live with that fear is very hard. I’ve seen women coming into refuges over the years and always looking over their shoulder for where the next blow is coming from. It’s a life sentence.” She pointed to the experience of just one of the many women she has met in this situation. She took out a

non-molestation order, which her husband breached four times before being fined £200. “There you are, that’s £50 a beating,” she told me. Catherine has an acting background and was commissioned by Training Women Network and the Department for Communities to write and perform a piece on paramilitarism and the effect on women. It was performed in Dungannon, QUB, Foyle and Duncairn Arts Centre in north Belfast. Catherine has also set up her own drama group called Silver Sister productions ‘The Other Side’ features Sarah, who lives with a man who is a perpetrator of domestic violence. “He is a well-known, well-respected man in a fictional community. It’s not about any one community – it’s for a mixed group of women and I wanted everyone in the room to be able to relate to Sarah. “The response to it was very positive, and it sparked off a great conversation afterwards, among women from all over Belfast who wanted to build capacity in their own areas and take on more leadership roles within their own communities. “Recently the Ulster University asked me to write a sequel to be performed for the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in April. “I need to tweak it a bit to show Sarah has a future. The last thing she was doing in ‘The Other Side’ was lying on the floor after taking an overdose. “It’s five years later and Sarah has moved on from her husband. “She survived.”

Poppy’s story

VIEW, Issue 46, 2018


hen my Prince Charming, who’d taken me to Euro Disney for my twenty-first, made me ‘wash out my mouth’ with washing up liquid, I knew I had to leave him. I first met him through friends. I was 17 years of age and still at school. He was a year older, very charming and good looking. We hooked up together a week afterwards. He spoilt me straight away and on Valentine’s Day – a week later, he bought me a lovely bracelet and wined and dined me with a three-course meal. I thought ‘wow, he really loves me’. It wasn’t until the end that I realised it was all a horrible game. We were together eight-and-a-half years. He bought a house in the country and we got engaged after six years. It was as if we had the jobs, the home, would get married and have two children. But he was controlling – it started off with small things. I wouldn’t be allowed to wear nail varnish. He said it made him feel physically sick. I just wanted to impress him so I agreed, not thinking anything of it. After the first year he destroyed my mobile phone sim card so I couldn’t contact my friends. I was embarrassed so I didn’t tell anyone. He didn’t have a social life and blamed it all on me. Whatever I discussed with my friends at work had to be reported back to him. I had to text him every detail, especially at lunchtime, even if I just walked past somebody. When we met, I was a confident

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He forced me to drink washing up liquid and said when I came home I’d be drinking bleach

person. But I knew there would be big arguments if I didn’t do what he said. If he came into work and saw something I hadn’t reported, there would be a very big argument. He’d shout and scream in my face. His jealousy became extreme. At the start I stood up for myself but he threatened to leave and I didn’t think I could cope alone. I put on eight stone. He encouraged me to eat, saying I’d looked like a slut when we met. But there were good times and he hired the Victoria Square dome when we got engaged. The TV drama series Hollyoaks ran an abuse storyline. Sometimes I thought “That’s the way he speaks to me, I feel like that.” But I pushed it aside. The week before the relationship ended we bumped into a guy I’d known when I was 15 years of age. My fiance questioned me, said I wasn’t telling the truth. We argued then went to his mum and dad’s house. I couldn’t eat as I knew he’d be very cross. His mother, who was friendly, had said: “He scares me at times.” On the Saturday of the last week he insisted I make a list of everyone I’d ever kissed or hugged. On the Tuesday he forced me to eat fudge cake until I threw up. He was recording it and laughing, then made me strip naked and threw bottles of water on me. He also said: “I want to sort this out, I want us to be happy.” On the Wednesday he sexually assaulted me, having raped me the night before. The next day I was back at work

after two days off. I tried to take an overdose and had taken a good few pills before he made me sick but didn’t ring the ambulance. He was a totally Jekyll and Hyde character. Thursday was the night he wanted the complete list. He pulled my hair, punched me in the stomach. When he said he’d wash my mouth out and brought out laundry products, I knew I had to get out. He forced me to drink washing up liquid and said when I came home, I’d be drinking bleach. I reported this to my line manager next day and broke down. I told my manager that he had been hitting me. My mother and brother picked me up. It was such a relief. He turned up at my mum’s house so I phoned 999 and the police came and arrested him. One policeman said the sexually graphic text messages on his phone were the worst he’d seen. I was advised to get a non-molestation order. Women’s Aid got in touch and I felt: “Wow, somebody understands me.” Now I am training to become a counsellor. He is in prison, having been sentenced to five years, and is married with a child. My family and friends have got me through and I’ve had to learn to be me again, but I’m there. • Some details, including ‘Poppy’s’ real name, have been changed to help protect her identity • As told to journalist Jane Hardy

Rachel’s story

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Even now if I see him, I’m shaking. The mental scars don’t heal like physical scars


he worst incident after I ended it was him sending the police to my house at 1.30am, saying I’d left the three children, including his baby, alone. We met at a birthday party given by friends. He was a taxi driver, a year older, and funny and charming. He said all the right things that I, a single mother-of-two, wanted to hear. He took my number, asked me out and it was all fast forward. The first time we went out, we didn’t click. He persisted via text messages, always making me laugh. The second date was better, there was a maybe. Before I knew it he was talking about moving in together and marriage. But my gut instinct was telling me “No”. My family said I should give him a chance as I’d been on my own for four years. My children, then aged 11 and five, were unsure but he put a lot of work in; the four of us went on day trips to Bangor and Newcastle. I drove over to help when he moved in, but everything was already in his car. I still felt instinctively something wasn’t right but it was hard saying “No”. On New Year’s Eve my parents were coming round for drinks. He came in at five or six – he kept saying he was tired from work and didn’t have as much money as usual. I’d asked him days before to install new lights. He suddenly said: “I f***ing don’t

fancy doing that.” So my brother did it. I told him he should feel embarrassed, and he became really angry and shouted: “I’m not staying here, I’m off to my mummy’s.” How could I tell my parents, and that the kids had heard him shouting. He didn’t come back for almost a week. Things went from bad to 100 percent worse. The arguments started a month later. There was never physical abuse, it was all emotional. It turned out cocaine was behind the mood swings and issues with money. In April, I fell pregnant. By June his moods were so bad I remember crying on the sofa for a week. Anytime we had a row, he’d take off to his mother’s and wouldn’t answer the phone. One time he texted to say sorry but he’d been flat out on coke for months. That was it. At the start of July I told him he needed to sort himself out. But I was thinking am I going to be on my own with the baby. The vicious cycle started. Things would be good for a while, then the arguing, then he’d disappear, then I’d apologise. In September he started using Facebook, calling me a child abuser. That was a favourite accusation, he shouted that twice in court. When I was seven months pregnant I was lying with my leg up as I had pelvic pain. He asked what was for dinner, I said I

was ordering food for the kids. He said he “didn’t f***ing want takeaway”. I said he’d have to cook it himself as I couldn’t even cook for my kids. So he went. The wee baby was born in January and my fiance shouted in the hospital and was asked to leave. We were going to get married but my mother said if we did, she wouldn’t be there. Lorna Brown, the Police Support Officer, was a lifeline. Even now if I see him, I’m shaking. The mental scars don’t heal like physical scars. He got everyone talking about me via social media, making himself out to be the victim. He said I was using his child as a weapon. There were times I couldn’t leave the house. Six years on, I’m still worried about being judged because of what he puts on Facebook. When he phoned the police, they came to check on the children. They’ve apologised to me and read him the riot act. He said: “If you don’t do your f***ing job, I’ll go down and check for you.” It makes you afraid to trust again. • Some details, including ‘Rachel’s’ real name, have been changed to help protect her identity • As told to journalist Jane Hardy

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Tackling the ‘elephant in the room’

We are not spending enough on preventing domestic abuse, said Professor John Devaney

Some domestic abuse perpetrators who want to change their behaviour are being offered help, but is it enough? journalist Una Murphy reports

“There is a need to think about how to work with perpetrators to ensure they are accountable for their behaviour and are less likely in the future to act abusively towards children and future partners they meet,” Professor John Devaney told VIEW. Professor Devaney, who is Centenary Professor of Social Work at Edinburgh University, said there was greater awareness of domestic abuse and violence and how this can include coercive control and psychological and emotional abuse than 30 years ago. He now wants what he called “a menu of approaches” to deal with the perpetrators. “We are not spending enough on preventing domestic abuse,” said Professor Devaney, whose latest book is ‘Domestic Violence Perpetrators: evidence informed responses’. “In Northern Ireland the only way that the perpetrator of domestic abuse can receive help with changing their behaviour is if they are convicted by the courts or through programmes run by the Probation Board.” He said that government funding cuts had hit some pilot projects set up within health trusts. It was a busy day at reception when I

called into the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) office in Belfast to speak to Dr Geraldine O’Hare, Head of Psychological Services and Interventions. She said it is important to work with the perpetrators of domestic violence and is inspired by “problem-solving courts” she has seen in action in the United States. Dr O’Hare said one initiative in Northern Ireland to start this month is the first domestic violence problem-solving court, which will sit in Derry under District Judge Barney McElholm, who has recently called for longer jail terms for cases of domestic violence. The pilot is set to run for 12 months and will deal with around 30 cases a year. The offenders will work with probation officers and their progress will be reported back to the judge. PBNI are also dealing with alleged perpetrators of domestic violence who have not come before the court but are known to social services in another pilot scheme in Derry in partnership with the Western Health Trust. “First and foremost, there is a victim,” Dr O’Hare said. “I have come across some perpetrators who don’t want to change and prison is the place for them. “We want people to admit the offence and that there is problem behaviour

to be addressed as well as taking responsibility for causing harm,” Dr O’Hare said. The NSPCC children’s charity is among those organisations running pilot programmes in dealing with both early intervention as well as the aftermath of domestic abuse, Lisa Downey-Webb manager of the NSPCC Steps to Safety Programme said: “The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) review on domestic violence in 2014 invited service providers to look at innovative ways to dealing with domestic abuse.” Steps to Safety helps families living with domestic abuse communicate better to manage moods and stop abusers striking out, she said. The charity also runs the DART (Domestic Abuse Recovering Together) programme to help mothers and children communicate better. “Nobody wants to talk about the ‘elephant in the room’,” said Lisa. She added that the stigma of domestic abuse means many who have lived through the experience do not want to talk about it. • NICE review –

COMMENT VIEW, Issue 46, 2018

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Why we need a domestic violence law


Clare Bailey, South Belfast MLA for the Green Party in Northern Ireland, argues that it’s time we showed zero tolerance to the perpetrators of domestic abuse in our society

am outraged at the level of domestic and sexual violence that is so prevalent in our society. If you’re not then you are not paying attention. Northern Ireland has no domestic violence legislation. During my short time spent on the Justice Committee before the Assembly was brought crashing down, the Minister for Justice had announced that she would bring forward legislation to tackle domestic abuse and coercive control within the year. I, and the Justice Committee, welcomed this and were working to ensure that these commitments were delivered.Yet here we are 13 months later with no Assembly and no legislation, yet it is a pseudo-cultural war on equality of identity that has us on our knees. In 2016 I proposed an amendment calling on the Northern Ireland Executive and the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to improve rape prosecution and conviction rates. I was delighted that the amendment received widespread cross-party support in the Assembly. Between 2010 and 2014, no prosecution was recommended in 83 percent of rape cases. This is unacceptable and my amendment was to ensure that there is a focus on tackling this low level of prosecution for rape and sexual violence cases. I proposed doing this by calling on the PPS to begin collecting and publishing detailed data on why rape prosecutions are not successful, and further call on the Minister for Justice to instruct the Criminal Justice Inspectorate to undertake a full thematic review of sexual violence and abuse. Under the Patten Commission recommendations much was done to encourage people to support the new Police Service in Northern Ireland, including the introduction of quotas, not gender quotas but religious quotas. It was accepted that the new PSNI needed more Catholics in order to get better support from Catholic communities. It was never noted that we might need more women to get a better balance or more effective outcomes. Since the effort to create more public confidence in policing began, statistics clearly show that the number of people reporting rape crimes has

Demand for vital support services for victims and survivors at organisations such as Women’s Aid and Nexus are increasing daily while these organisations have had their funding cut

increased year on year. The same statistics also show that on average the PSNI have recommended approximately half these cases for prosecution but yet we are failing to see any significant increase in the number of cases making it into a court, and of the small number that do, we consistently see a pitiful number of convictions. During the period between 20092013, there were 83 convictions for rape. Research carried out by the Northern Ireland Assembly shows around 80 percent of the victims of sexual crime are female and over half of those are under 18 years of age. Of those convicted of sexual crimes, all have been men during the same years. Although they are from all age ranges we can see a significant spike in numbers between the ages of 18 to 29. Statistics from the Northern Ireland Crime Survey show that 2008/09 to 2010/11, only 31.1 percent of domestic abuse ‘worst’ cases were reported to the police. In the case of lifetime abuse cases (where the victim had experienced some form of partner abuse at any time since the age of 16), the figure is even lower: only 27.1 percent of these cases had been reported to police. Demand for vital support services for victims and survivors at organisations such as Women’s Aid and Nexus are increasing daily while these organisations have had their funding cut. It is time we showed zero tolerance to domestic and sexual violence. We need decent domestic violence and coercive control legislation similar to that in other regions in Great Britain, swift and harsh sentencing of perpetrators, and adequately resourced specialist support services for victims, survivors and their families Questions need to be asked about why we have such a low rate of prosecutions and convictions in Northern Ireland. Why are we failing to get cases into court when the PSNI are recommending prosecution? Do the PSNI and PPS work effectively together? Is the evidential bar set too high for this type of crime? Does our judicial system have a real understanding of this criminal behaviour? Why have we been able to get to 2018 and still not have a law on domestic violence?

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Lorna Brown: “Our Western romantic notions can be very damaging”

On the frontline: the PSNI support worker Women’s Aid staff member Lorna Brown, who is based in a police station, describes two cases to Jane Hardy that involved an older and younger woman who both sought help after experiencing frightening levels of domestic abuse


n abusive relationship which ends with the woman swung around like a toy may initially look like a whirlwind romance, according to PSNI Support Worker Lorna Brown. Ms Brown, who works on secondment from Women’s Aid with the police at Antrim Road Police Station, said: “There is the cycle of violence but it starts with an accelerated pace of a relationship and confessions of love, the ‘I can’t imagine living without you’. But then, in the partnerships observed by Ms Brown, something changes. “The fact he shouted at you when you were five minutes late, that’s the difference.” Once control is established, the picture gets a lot darker. Ms Brown said: “A lot of the physical violence won’t start until he has control. “There are marriages which follow a drawn-out rollercoaster pattern,” said Lorna. She described the case involving an older client. “They were 38 years married, she described it as ‘a good marriage’. It was good for five to six years, then it became horrific. One day, the husband swung her around the house, creating vicious marks. Her head hit the radiator. There was a sexual element too, as when he assaulted her, he’d take her tops off and put her outside. The woman is 60, has health issues, and is very, very fearful.”

Ms Brown’s role doesn’t start until the abuse has been reported to the police on three occasions within 12 months. She provides emotional and practical support, and referrals to women with abusive partners, or abusive children. “We look at the woman’s self-esteem, things she can try, what is a healthy relationship.” Nearly a quarter of cases – around 23 percent - involve abuse by grown-up children. Lorna handles up to 50 cases every month in north and west Belfast. The south and west Belfast role has lost funding, so cases are dealt with by Women’s Aid HQ. The older woman, felt to be at potential risk of murder and the subject of a MARAC (multi-agency risk assessment conference), gained extra security in the house. Lorna added: “A dentist’s report was considered as she had had such damage to her face and teeth. Her husband was charged with attempted murder, GBH and intent to kill. Women’s Aid paid for a peephole and letter box protector, as she feared he might put something flammable through it, and she now sleeps downstairs.” Lorna cited the case of a young woman who bought into romance but got abuse. She said: “Our Western romantic model is damaging. This was a very romantic relationship but now she’s a young woman who’s lost everything. She

met a drug dealer who got her addicted. If she left, the drugs stopped so she needed to be with him. It got worse via misuse of social media. He videoed her having sex alone and threatened her with revealing the footage if she left him, including to her mother. Then she became pregnant, was assaulted by him and lost the baby. The young woman, who was very angry, escaped, but her ex-partner was skilful enough to post the images on her Facebook page that he managed. Having blocked her from her own page, it became difficult to prove an offence.” Lorna added: “These men are skilled. If kicking her face leaves bruises, they’ll punch her in the head or kick her legs.” A safety plan was put in place, with a positive outcome. Lorna said: “The police were called six to eight times before she left. The last contact we had, she was pregnant by him but out off the relationship.” Lorna’s team won a justice prize in 2016. This is vital work as the rising statistics of domesic abuse demonstrate. There have been nearly 70 cases of domestic abuse leading to murder in Northern Ireland over the last decade. Lorna’s role with the women she supports is simple. Of the young woman now seeing life beyond the abusive relationship, she said: “She knows where I am. My role is to make her feel more safer.”

Voices of children and young people VIEW, Issue 46, 2018

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Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland have produced a powerful booklet, See Hear Act, which documents, through the use of words and illustrations, the voices of children and young people who have lived with domestic violence. Above, and on the next three pages, we offer a glimpse into a dark world of pain that is often hidden from the wider public. Their stories and experiences deserve to be told

Voices of children and young people VIEW, Issue 46, 2018

Words and drawing from an eight-year-old girl

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Voices of children and young people VIEW, Issue 46, 2018

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VIEW, Issue 46, 2018

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‘It poisons generation after generation’ Judge Barney McElholm: ‘Children must be taught that domestic violence is never acceptable’

Judge hits out at ‘insidious nature’ of domestic violence

Question: Recently you said that “our politicians seem to feel the most trivial of things are more important than serious things like domestic violence”. Why did you say this?

Answer: I don’t want to intrude into the political end of things but I would like to see domestic violence being addressed in a very serious, co-ordinated and methodical way.

Q: You have called for tougher sentences for domestic violence offences. Is our present sentencing policy inadequate?

A: People interpreted what I was saying too widely. I was speaking specifically about the fact that most domestic violence offences that come through me fall into the realm of common assault. And that has a maximum sentence of six months....You need more specific legislation to deal with this.

Q: Why has the successful domestic abuse court pilot scheme, which was launched four years ago in Derry, not been implemented across Northern Ireland?

A: It’s a matter ultimately for the Department of Justice. And again, that could be another ‘victim’ of a lack of government at the moment. in Northern Ireland.

Q: Can you talk to me about the

planned Perpetrator Programme scheme in the north west. What does the perpetrator commit to if they take part in it?

A: It hasn’t commenced yet. What would happen is that if someone appears in my court charged with a domestic violence offence, they can ask or I can offer, for them to be assessed for the perpetrator programme if they are pleading guilty at an early stage. They would commit to doing an intensive six-month course that would examine their motivation and behaviour with a view to changing the way the way they behave towards intimate partners. They would also have to be assessed as being suitable for the programme.

Q: You once quoted from a W.H. Auden poem ‘September 1, 1939’: “I and the public know, what all schoolchildren learn, those to whom evil is done, do evil in return.” What was the meaning behind this reference?

A: I was referring to the insidious nature of domestic abuse. It poisons generation after generation. If you get a child who is subjected to domestic abuse or who witnesses domestic abuse against one of his parents by the other parent, that child will be very emotionally and psychologically disturbed and to the point where they will either become a perpetrator or they could become a victim.

Q, Could our rehabilitation services in Northern Ireland be improved given that we have

repeat domestic abuse offenders?

A:Yes. I have sent someone to jail, who was in front of me for a domestic assault, for a six-month sentence. They were out in a couple of months’ time. What has changed? We have to be far more imaginative and innovative. Our legislators need to look at the entire situation.You need a combination of custody and rehabilitation, such as perpetrator programmes, designed specifically for people who have served a period of custody. Q: What is the scale of domestic abuse like in Derry? A: I see it every day in my court.

Q: Would you like to comment on the work of Foyle Women's Aid.? A: I’m very supportive of their excellent work. They have adopted very innovative approaches to domestic violence and have a great relationship with other agencies Q:Is it important to listen to the victims?

A: It’s vital that we listen to and support victims of domestic violence. Q: How important is the role of education in tackling domestic violence in Northern Ireland?

A: Children must be taught to see each other as equals and that domestic violence is never acceptable.

COMMENT VIEW, Issue 46, 2018


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Helping women through the legal route


Claire Edgar, a partner at Francis Hanna and Co Solicitors, provides some insight into her experience working as a family law practitioner with victims of domestic abuse

hroughout my 20-year career practising family law, I have encountered domestic abuse on many different levels – some blatantly obvious in terms of physical abuse and harm and others much subtler, through emotional abuse and coercive control. In some cases, domestic abuse has been a relatively new feature to the relationship with the person suffering fortunately being able to access support and assistance at an early stage and ‘get out’. At other times, I have dealt with women and men who have suffered abuse for decades and have never felt strong enough to break free from their partner and seek help. With International Women’s Day 2018 very much in the current focus, now is a good opportunity to discuss how the legal system in NI deals with family matters that come before the court where a woman has been the victim of domestic violence in her relationship. The time at which a woman in an abusive relationship is contemplating separation can be the most dangerous time for her and her children. The law in Northern Ireland does offer immediate protection for such women. The Family Homes and Domestic Violence (NI) Order 1998 allows a person to apply for Orders to protect them from domestic abuse. A Non-Molestation Order will prevent an abuser from harassing, molesting pestering, using or threatening violence. If both parties have legal rights to reside in the family home, an Occupation Order can be made to have an abusive partner removed from the home to allow the victim peaceful occupation of it. The law allows for emergency orders to be made where there has been a recent incident. At the point of separation, a woman is at a time of crisis and this is not a time for her to be overwhelmed with long-term decisions about her future. The ability to obtain a Non-Molestation Order and/or Occupation Order gives her immediate safety and breathing space away from the abuse to reflect on what she wants to do going forward. If we look at post-separation issues from the perspective of a woman, in my experience a common strategy of many abusive partners to retain some level of

The period in which a woman in an abusive relationship is contemplating separation can be the most dangerous time for her and her children control over a woman is through their children. How can they do this? They may try to influence the children against their mother to undermine her. They may make vexatious allegations regarding her care of the children. The woman may be anxious about facilitating any contact between the children and their father for fear of how he may behave towards them. She may be fearful that he will take the children away from her permanently. If she is facilitating contact, the father may not adhere to contact arrangements causing disruption to the children’s routines and, as such, further stress for the mother. How does the legal system deal with issues concerning the children in the context of a domestically abusive relationship? In my experience, a woman in this situation can feel like she is damned whatever she does. Even though she is the

victim and not the perpetrator of the domestic abuse, in the context of children’s proceedings the focus may often shift to the mother. She can feel like she is being criticised by the court and/or Social Services if she fails to act protectively to keep the children safe from the domestic abuse – her failure or seeming refusal to stand up to the person who is abusing her and protect the children from the abuse often comes into sharp focus. On the other hand, if a mother does say “no” to her children having contact with her abuser, she may be made out by the father to be difficult, which could result in her being branded “implacably hostile” by the court. The reality is that a woman in such a situation may feel like she cannot win. This can be a very confusing and unsettling time for to a woman who is trying to make sense of her life and rebuild it at a time when her self-esteem is at its lowest ebb. There are of course many ways in which the Family Court system has developed over the years to assist both adults and children affected by domestic abuse. For one, there is much more knowledge within the legal profession, judiciary and Social Services of domestic violence and its impact on children. More work must, of course, be done in terms of developing the law surrounding domestic abuse and how the court supports and assists victims; with the new proposed legislation surrounding coercive control in England and Wales, which will hopefully be implemented into law here in Northern Ireland, we are getting there, slowly but surely. In my experience, the support of organisations such as Women’s Aid is vital for women suffering from domestic abuse – having a hand to hold from someone who really believes her, understands what she is going through and is on her side makes all the difference when navigating the court system. I have worked alongside Women’s Aid for many years and have witnessed the transformation of the lives of countless women supported by them. I will continue to champion the organisation, both as a legal professional and as a woman by continuing to highlight the issue of domestic abuse in our society.

Steven’s story

VIEW, Issue 46, 2018


was in Liverpool on holiday when she rang me to say she was hiding under a table with our daughter and the Social Services were at the door. I told her to answer the door and talk to them, but she hung up. Then I phoned her father to go and pick up the little girl. We met when I was playing in a rock band and touring all over Northern Ireland – we would run into each other. It wasn’t a long relationship; we were together for less than a year. It never got past the excitement stage. She was 20 years of age and I was in my mid-30s. We had some dates. She would come to my house and I went to her family home. There was no objection from her mother, who was an alcoholic, and her whole family drank a lot. She was very promiscuous and manipulative. She had a plan in her head and used my previous five-year relationship, which broke my heart, as a blueprint. Drink was involved and I ended up in bed with her. But I never knew where I stood with her. I remember once we went to a local concert, she with her friends, me with mine. She turned round and deliberately kissed this man in front, which was kind of humiliating. My mate said: “Why are you with her?” I didn’t even know. Then she became pregnant. She didn’t take it well but I said if she didn’t have the baby, I wouldn’t have anything to do with it as I don’t believe in abortion. She tried to get money from me for one, but she had the child. Unfortunately, I was sick and had a nervous breakdown. She felt I’d rejected her, although I visited her in hospital when I could. Afterwards I thought things had turned a corner but things changed. The weekend the Social Services came, she’d arranged for her mother to look after our six-year-old daughter. Saturday was OK, but on Sunday she reneged. On Saturday, she had fallen out with her boyfriend, phys-

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Men’s Action Network has been absolutely priceless with counselling

Support for male victims

According to the PSNI figures, there were 29,166 domestic abuse incidents in Northern Ireland in 2016-2017. Of these, a small but growing number involved male victims. Men’s Advisory Project (MAP – has branches in Belfast and Foyle and offers a variety of services from counselling to anger management, awareness raising sessions and research and resources on domestic abuse. MAP is contactable on 028 9024 1929 (Belfast) or 028 7116 0001 (Foyle). In Derry, the Men’s Action Network ( is a small charity that was founded in 1994 by local men with the aim of providing a safe space for men to find support and a way through the crises they were experiencing. Their contact phone number is 02871 377777.

ically attacked him and been put out of his house, then had had a fight with her mother in front of her daughter. One of the sisters must have called the emergency services. She’s fallen out with her father, gone into rages, texted him forbidding him to see his granddaughter, then changed her mind. She has even attacked him physically. He pushed her off, she was going to hit him again but he said: :If you do that.” She lifted her hand. He punched her and my daughter saw it. He rang me to say he felt awful for all the right reasons. But she never takes any responsibility for anything. In terms of being abusive to me, she has used Facebook, where I keep an open line to communicate about our daughter, to pick fights. She has threatened to take legal action against my partner. I’m on benefits but she’ll say “you have to buy her trainers”, and send our daughter to my house without PE kit, so I have to get it. Worst of all, she uses our daughter

as a weapon and as currency to get what she wants. My daughter says she’s been called “a bitch” by her, is being taught to say “F*** off”, as her mother thinks it’s funny. But the small girl is a hero, more adult than her parent and asks what she can do to help. I think women get special consideration as they are thought the weaker sex. From my own experience, men do get a raw deal, just trying to do the right thing and face the consequences of their actions. Man’s Action Network has been absolutely priceless with counselling. I am conscious with all that has happened that I will eventually go for custody. • Some details, including Steven’s’ real name, have been changed to help protect his identity • As told to journalist Jane Hardy

VIEW, Issue 46, 2018

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‘A friend’ to the LGBT community Cara-Friend Director Steve Williamson tells VIEW that domestic violence affects the LGBT community in much the same way as it affects others, although it is chronically under reported

By Kathryn Johnston

“One young boy came through CaraFriend’s door at the age of 17. His father told him he was too unclean to come into the house and forced him to live in the back garden – like an animal. “This is a child in Northern Ireland, living in a garden, getting regular beatings every day from parents. It was only when the child had the courage to contact us that he could get help.” These powerful descriptions of abuse came from Steve Williamson, the Director of Cara-Friend, a voluntary counselling, befriending, information, health and social space organisation for the LGBT community since 2007. “Domestic violence affects the LGBT community in much the same way as it affects others, although it is chronically under-reported,” Steve said “It first came to my attention in Northern Ireland not so much through people in a same-sex relationship as through young people and children. “We get a lot of young people coming into us who have been abused by siblings. And, indeed, by parents. Incidents of violent abuse have spiralled.” Steve said that Cara-Friend’s rate of disclosure through their youth service has escalated from maybe one or two a year to probably about 20 referrals in the last quarter. “For a much bigger mainstream youth

Support: Steve Williamson organisation than Cara-Friend, that would be considered very, very high, so it isn’t difficult to work out that violent abuse is occurring at a much higher rate within the LGBT community,” he added. “When it comes to young people those statistics are beginning to emerge from within the family home. “We encounter real horror stories. Quite often it is predictably the father who is carrying out the abuse while the mother may be covering for the father while at the same time being torn between him and the child. “It isn’t as simple as the parents turning a blind eye to siblings beating this child for being gay, the parents often join in.

“To anyone who is suffering domestic abuse within the LGBT community, contact Cara-Friend, or the Rainbow Project – between us we have a wonderful range of counsellors. “Cara-Friend have helplines where you can talk in confidence, whether you are ready to take a step that very day or whether you just want someone to talk to. Sometimes even picking up the phone can be too big a step. “We can support you by email, we can meet you face to face, whatever it takes. Support services are there not just for the young person concerned, but for the whole family,” added Steve. ‘We deal with people in confidence. If someone gets in touch with us and isn’t ready for the family to be confronted, we won’t be taking that anywhere. The only exception is that if you are 13 years of age and you come to us and tell us you are being seriously abused, we have a duty of care to involve social workers and so forth. But we will make sure that you understand all of that when you talk to us. That is the first step.’ • Cara-Friend can be contacted by visiting or by phone at (028) 9089 0202. • LGBT Switchboard NI can be contacted at 0808 8000 390 – FREE from landlines

VIEW, Issue 46, 2018

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Sisters Uncut in protest at the BAFTA awards in London over cuts to domestic violence support groups

Time’s up Theresa say Sisters Uncut


By Kylie Noble

he 71st British Academy Awards (BAFTAs) were held in London on February 18 at the Royal Albert Hall. Usually, the film stars and their expensive clothes grab the headlines, but Sisters Uncut – a direct action feminist group based in London – stole the spotlight this year. Activists stormed the red carpet as celebrities arrived, wearing T-shirts branded with ‘Time’s up Theresa’, laying down on the ground and chanting “the Domestic Violence Bill is a cover-up, Theresa May your time is up”. The group were formed in 2014 and are made up of women who oppose UK government cuts to domestic violence support services. The group believe that the government’s upcoming Domestic and Violence and Abuse Bill – which is currently in the process of going through Parliament – will be harmful to domestic abuse victims. A spokesperson from Sisters Uncut expanded on why the group is focused on domestic violence. “Domestic violence support services and refuges are continuing to face on-going cuts or threats of closure as local authorities are failing to prioritise

specialist services while attempting to mitigate budget cuts enforced by central government.” The group also argue that the Conservatives’ austerity programme is increasing the barriers to escaping from domestic violence. “Cuts to benefits are making women poorer, which makes it harder for them to leave abusive partners. A lack of social housing means that women often literally have nowhere to go. Policies such as the benefit cap and cuts to benefits such as tax credits are disproportionately affecting single parents – such as mothers who have fled domestic violence. European Economic Area (EEA) migrants have encountered heavy restrictions on their entitlement to housing benefit and Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), making it harder for them to access refuge spaces or to live safely and independently.” The ‘Time’s up Theresa’ message is tied into the global Time’s Up campaign against harassment and gender-based violence. “Criminalisation of survivors is already happening in the UK, and is extremely dangerous, as highlighted in recent reports about the death of Katrina O’Hara, who was murdered after being wrongly investigated by the police instead of her violent partner. Recent research by

the Prison Reform Trust found that survivors reported being repeatedly arrested by the police despite their partner being the primary aggressor.” Suzanne Da Costa, a domestic violence helpline worker who took part in the BAFTA protest, said: “Imagine calling the police for help and ending up in a police cell – it’s incredibly traumatic and a story I’ve heard too often from survivors. We shouldn’t be giving the police more power, we should be giving power back to survivors.” The international Time’s Up campaign was born after the publication of an open letter from the Latina Alianza Nacional De Campesinas (National Farmworkers Women’s Alliance) in the USA, showing solidarity with Hollywood actors who have experienced harassment. Another protester, Ana Kaur, commented on the link between Sisters Uncut work and Time’s Up. “We are in solidarity with the Time’s Up campaign. Like the Alianza Nacional De Campesinas, we recognise that gender-based violence happens everywhere, and that to disclose abuse requires support. As well as calling Time’s Up on individual perpetrators, we have to call Time’s Up on our government for failing to provide us with real options and support.”

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View latest issue 46 domestic violence  
View latest issue 46 domestic violence  

Social affairs publication for Northern Ireland