Call for formal review of domestic killings

Source: IrishHealth.com

November 23, 2018

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  • Almost 90% of women murdered in Ireland are killed by a man known to them, with the majority killed by a current or former partner/husband, a new report from Women's Aid has revealed.

    Women's Aid is a national organisation that has been working since the 1970s to help women and children affected by domestic violence. It has just launched its Femicide Watch 2018 report, which reveals that women are more likely to be killed in their own homes by men known to them.

    According to the report, where cases have been resolved, 56% of female victims were murdered by a current or former boyfriend, partner or husband, 31% were killed by a male relative or other male known to them, and just 13% were killed by strangers.

    Some 61% of women were killed in their own homes.

    The report notes that since records began in 1996, 225 women have died violently in the Republic of Ireland, and 16 children have died alongside their mothers. Seven women have died in violent circumstances so far in 2018.

    Women's Aid is calling for the introduction of formal reviews of domestic killings as a matter or urgency to help protect at-risk women and their children. It insisted that such reviews will help save lives.

    "When women call our helpline and tell us that they are afraid for their lives, we believe them. We know just how dangerous domestic violence can be. We know where women are killed, we know how women are killed and by whom. It is time to act. Femicide by an intimate partner must not be accepted as a fact of life for women. Women should be safe in their homes and in their relationships. And we must recognise the strong connection between the killing of women and domestic violence," commented Women's Aid director, Margaret Martin.

    She pointed out that last year, over 21,000 contacts were made with the organisation, and these included 19,385 disclosures of abuse against women and 3,552 disclosures of child abuse.

    "We heard 622 disclosures where a man has told a woman he will kill her, the children, a family member or himself, 756 disclosures where a man had choked, smothered, beaten or threatened to beat his partner with a weapon, 531 disclosures of stalking, both online and in person, and 217 reports of assault during pregnancy," Ms Martin said.

    Women's Aid insisted that dangerous patterns in abusive relationships are often dismissed or not taken seriously, putting the woman at increased risk. Tactics used by perpetrators include physical abuse, jealousy, stalking, threats to kill and controlling behaviour.

    The organisation believes that increased recognition and management of risk factors for intimate partner homicide would lead to an improved response to domestic violence by the State and its agencies, saving the lives of women.

    It has made a number of recommendations to the Government in this area, including the introduction of domestic homicide reviews (DHRs).

    "These reviews must have powers to make and monitor recommendations to improve prevention and risk assessment and risk management strategies by agencies tasked to protect women and children, such as An Garda Síochána, social workers, HSE and other authorities and specialist domestic violence services.

    "Any DHR system must also include the testimony of family members of the woman, and her informal community networks such as friends and social groups. We know from other jurisdictions that DHRs are a very important tool for families and loved ones to have their voices heard after often feeling let down by the criminal justice system," Ms Martin said.

    The report was launched at a seminar in Dublin to mark UN Day Opposing Violence Against Women (November 25). Also speaking at the seminar, Dr Jane Monckton Smith, an expert in domestic homicides, emphasised that the murder of a woman by her partner is never a ‘crime of passion'.

    "These murders are not about love, they're about entitlement to a relationship, and a need to control that relationship. Murder is the ultimate expression of control. The most repeated phrase uttered by these killers is ‘if I can't have you no-one can'.

    "If we keep explaining these murders away as spontaneous crimes without looking into the trends, patterns and histories, we will remain in denial. But more importantly, we will be letting down both past and future victims," she said.

    She explained that she trains police officers in risk and threat identification, but ‘there is so much resistance from them'.

    "We need a lot better police leadership telling their officers that this is important. For those working on the frontline, looking at patterns in domestic abuse rather than incidents, motivations rather than actions, and clusters rather than the number of risk markers, is a more effective way to identify escalating risk and prevent femicides," she commented.

    She emphasised that there are 'known behavioural patterns to these murders and a critical indicator is coercive control'.

    "This is not a benign or silly idea. It's not about couples arguing and it's not about a bit of jealousy. It's about subjugation. Stalking isn't about love struck individuals leaving flowers to declare their passion. It's about monitoring and intelligence gathering. When we talk about domestic violence deaths, we must talk about control," she added.

    The Femicide Watch 2018 report is available to view here

    The Women's Aid national helpline is available 24 hours a day on 1800 341 900 or click here for more information on the organisation.


    © Medmedia Publications/IrishHealth.com 2018