Women’s Aid is appalled that a local restaurant has used a joke about domestic violence to sell lunches.

Domestic violence is no joke. Two women per week are killed by an abusive partner or ex-partner in the UK. Last year, 738 women and 520 children stayed in Women’s Aid refuges in Northern Ireland because they were not safe in their own homes.

And since 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, you can be sure that there were survivors of abuse who walked past that sign today, and had their experience of abuse come flooding back to them. They didn’t see a joke on the sign – they saw a society that doesn’t think their suffering is a big deal, or thinks their abuse is funny. And any perpetrators of domestic violence who read that joke saw an endorsement of their abusive behaviour.

That’s why jokes like these are never harmless. They cement damaging misconceptions that domestic violence is something minor that it’s ok to laugh about.

Women’s Aid has spent the last 40 years trying to change societal attitudes towards abuse, and we have come a long way. Let’s not forget that legal protection for victims of domestic violence with automatic power of arrest only came about in Northern Ireland in 1981, and marital rape wasn’t on the statute books until the 1990s. But we clearly still have a long way to go to change hearts and minds in Northern Ireland, and the actions of this restaurant today have not helped in that regard.

We hope that the owners of the establishment in question have the sense and grace to issue an unreserved apology, and seek some domestic violence awareness training for all staff.