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Fragmentation and distrust has thwarted progress on ‘scourge’ of sexual violence

14 Jul 2021 / IRELAND Print

Distrust thwarts progress on sexual violence 'scourge'

An independent audit on how responsibility for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence (DSGBV) is segmented across different departments and agencies finds significant fragmentation, and little or no progress on some key issues.

While there is a wealth of experience, talent and commitment in the sector, the report finds evidence of “distrust, disrespect, othering and blaming” among them.

“These behaviours manifest where insufficient attention is paid to building trust and relationships in structures and, in this case, may also involve the dysfunctional mirroring of the dynamics of DSGBV,” the report continues.

A lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities, the wrong people at meetings, and a range of other issues that were raised, have had an impact on the quality of processes and practice. 

Insufficient investment

Insufficient investment has been made in building a culture of trust and respect, the report points out.

Communication has been particularly weak, the report adds.

Policy leadership must be placed clearly with the Department of Justice, the report concludes. 

“The way that the structure is conceived and designed is of the utmost importance to securing a sense of ownership and commitment among stakeholders,” the review points out.

Stakeholders must be involved from the beginning in the design of a new structure that will reflect their shared vision of its purpose and ways of working, the document says.

New strategy

The Department of Justice will now lead the development across Government of the new strategy, which will be published by the end of the year and will outline radical improvements in services and supports.

Hildegarde Naughton (Minister of State for Criminal and Civil Justice) said the Government was determined to “tackle the scourge of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, and is seeking to improve policies in that regard”.

Ministers Hildegarde Naughton and Roderic O’Gorman (Minster for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth) have set out an action plan, including:

  • A €30 million allocation by Minister O’Gorman to Tusla in 2021 – the highest allocation for DSGBV services made to date. This includes €28 million in core funding and €2 million to address COVID-19 challenges,
  • Tusla’s accommodation review, currently being finalised, which has examined the current level of refuge provision, evidence of demand for services and unmet need, and analysis of proximity to refuge by local communities,
  • Additional supports provided throughout the pandemic, such as supporting victims of DSGBV to access rent supplement via the Department of Social Protection,
  • Reforms to the criminal-justice system, such as the introduction of preliminary trial hearings,
  • More specialised training and extra staff in An Garda Síochána and the Director of Public Prosecutions,
  • Improved policing through Operation Faoiseamh, and other proactive initiatives,
  • Funding of €4.1 million from the Department of Justice to support victims of crime and some €3 million for raising awareness of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, and,
  • The development of paid domestic-violence leave and benefit.
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