Today, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls, 25th November 2013, Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland invites you to join us and take action on violence against women and girls.

This day marks the beginning of 16 days of activism on violence against women and girls, and Women’s Aid groups across Northern Ireland will be organizing and participating in a range of events on each of the 16 days. These will include candlelit vigils, white ribbon campaigns, symbolic exhibitions and coffee mornings at a local community level, to raise awareness of this important date and to promote a strong message that violence against women should not be tolerated.  Daily updates on these activities and key facts relating to domestic and sexual violence will be profiled on the Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland web site, www.womensaidni.org.

The global theme for this year’s campaign “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World” will bring together women, peace and human rights movements across the world, to challenge militarism and the values which allow violence and discrimination to continue. It is already well documented that the use of force, coercion and sexual violence in countries where there is armed conflict disproportionately affects women and young women are especially vulnerable by their age and gender. We know that in many countries rape is used as a weapon of war and is a clear manifestation of militaristic attitudes. Rape and sexual abuse are not just a by-product of war but are now used as a military strategy.

Speaking today, Annie Campbell, Director of Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland said:

Women’s Aid welcomes the opportunity to promote and raise awareness of this important date and to challenge attitudes which perpetuate violence against women.  We all have a role to play in addressing violence against women, promoting peace in the home and as a result contributing to peace in the world. In Northern Ireland, we are yet to properly address the legacy of our conflict in terms of the specific impact this has on women, including the impact of increased levels of violence.

In post-conflict societies domestic and sexual violence against women often increases or intensifies, and it is of great concern to Women’s Aid that no research or attention has been paid to this possibility.

She went on to say:

Violence against women and girls in our society remains pervasive. The PSNI responded to a domestic violence incident every 19 minutes of every day in the past year. In 2012-13, our refuges provided shelter and support to 880 women and 549 children fleeing domestic violence across Northern Ireland. We helped a further 3,659 women and 4,469 children through our outreach projects. Our 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline, which is open to all women and men affected by domestic and sexual violence, managed 47,597 calls during that year. Domestic and sexual violence remain a huge problem in Northern Ireland, but we are heartened that more women feel able to come forward and report the violence and abuse they are suffering, either to police or to organisations like ourselves. The 16 Days of Activism helps us to continue to break the silence around violence against women and encourage them to get the help they desperately need.

In adding their support to the day, ICTU Equality Officer Clare Moore added:

Domestic violence may happen behind closed doors but it has far reaching consequences and is known to have an impact on the working lives of those living with an abusive partner. Domestic violence continues to affect our members and their ability to remain in employment. In partnership with organisations such as Women’s Aid Federation, trade unions have a vital role to play in providing practical workplace support for people experiencing violence at home.  We are pleased to add our support to the 16 Days Campaign.

Women’s activists have marked 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the starting point for 16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence since 1991. The 16 Days of Activism is an international campaign which highlights that violence against women is a violation of human rights, which should not be tolerated in any society.

Women’s Aid has been working to eliminate domestic and sexual violence in Northern Ireland for over thirty years. It has developed a range of services for women, young people and children living with and surviving domestic violence which include the 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline; outreach services in the community; drop in centres; support services for children and young people; training and awareness raising. For women and their children who have to leave their home, Women’s Aid provides refuge accommodation and aftercare support services.

  • In 2012-13 police statistics showed that PSNI responded to 27,190 incidents. This means that there was a reported domestic incident every 19 minutes of every day of the year.
  • Five out of 17 recorded murders (29%) were classed as having a domestic motivation.
  • Since 1999, Women’s Aid across Northern Ireland has given refuge to 16,425 women and 15,488 children and young people.
  • During the last 18 years Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland managed 370,758 calls to the 24 Hour Domestic Violence Helpline.
  • Children experience domestic violence as witnesses and direct victims. Domestic violence can impact on all areas of children’s lives, including friendships, behaviour and school.
  • UNICEF research released in 2006, showing per capita incidence, indicates that there are up to 32,000 children and young people living with domestic violence in Northern Ireland.
  • According to PSNI figures, there were 1,948 sexual offences recorded in 2012-13, including 533 rapes (including attempted rape) committed during that period.