2000….Looking to the future
With the start of the
1990's Women's Aid still firmly held onto the priority of the needs of women and
children coming to refuges, a particular feature of Women's Aid in Northern
Ireland has been a deep commitment to a high standard of refuge accommodation
which can provide a safe and positive environment for women and children. This has been made possible firstly
through the housing associations which purchase and renovate or build suitable
properties. Secondly, permanent
funding enables Women's Aid to employ committed and experienced staff who can
offer a professional and caring service to women and children.
The political situation
in Northern Ireland has implications for those concerned with responding to
domestic violence. The sectarian
nature of the violence has sometimes limited the availability and response of
police officers in certain areas and it can also restrict a woman's choice about
involving the police to protect her. However,
the service provided is by Women’s Aid is used by all communities as well as
urban and rural communities.
In future years, the
issue for Women's Aid will be to develop mechanisms which lie outside refuge
support systems. The Women's Aid
movement is still developing, but we need to assist and encourage other agencies
to develop positive responses to domestic violence. The recent guidelines issued by police
forces throughout the United Kingdom are an encouraging sign.
Whilst the availability
of Women's Aid refuges in Northern Ireland in the last 16 years has provided a
powerful catalyst in challenging male violence within the home, refuges on their
own provide only part of the solution. Responding
to domestic violence is about addressing the needs of women and children who are
at a crisis point in their lives; it is also about addressing the actions of
those who use violence against their partners.
Meeting these challenges will require clear policies, a multi-agency
approach and a commitment to bring about change.
There is greater awareness than ever before of the need for a coordinated
response to be made.
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