Kelly Andrews, Chief Executive of Belfast-Lisburn Women’s Aid
By VIEW editor Brian Pelan
Professionals and practitioners will gather today at Titanic Belfast to reflect progress in tackling domestic violence in Northern Ireland.
The conference, facilitated by Belfast & Lisburn Women’s Aid, invites a number of high profilespeakers including the new Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales and practitioners from across the legal and housing sectors.
Domestic violence is a serious crime and takes many forms, including physical and sexual abuse, as well as controlling and coercive behaviour. In 2018/19 the PSNI responded to over 31,000 incidents of domestic violence, equating to one every 17 minutes of every day. Currently Northern Ireland has the joint highest rate of domestic homicide per population in Europe. Despite an increase in reporting and a growing change in mind set, domestic violence remains very much a hidden crime. All too often society views domestic violence as a private family matter rather than a wider societal issue.
In recent years we have seen progression, but how far have we really come in changing the narrative around domestic violence? What more needs to be done to tackle, prevent and respond to domestic violence? There are still many challenges facing women, support services and partner agencies. Northern Ireland continues to lag behind the rest of the UK, and is the only jurisdiction without specific coercive control and stalking legislation. Non-fatal strangulation, a prevalent issue in domestic violence, is another example of legislative challenges proving difficult to overcome and prosecute.
Nicole Jacobs, the new Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, who is speaking at the Conference said: “I am very much looking forward to coming to Belfast and hearing about the inspiring work of Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid and their partners. As Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales I intend to raise the voices of victims and survivors of all ages, status and background. Central to this is the critical work of special charities and the multi-agency partnership required to truly address domestic abuse. It is an honour to come to Belfast and I look forward to this event.”
The conference aims to bring together legal and social policy makers, key practitioners and interested individuals who have worked to change the conversation regarding domestic violence and explore the challenges they continue to face. It will provide a forum for participants to examine and understand the complex dynamics involved in domestic violence, coercive control and non-fatal strangulation. It will provide insight into the social, legal and cultural reasons for the current failure to ensure effective prevention, support, protection and justice strategies for women and children.
Kelly Andrews, Chief Executive of Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid, said: “Our conference “Changing the Conversation” will bring together our partner agencies who have worked, and continue to work with us to address domestic violence, changing the mind set and conversations of the public along the way. We will discuss prevailing attitudes on how society perceives, and to what extent, tolerates domestic violence.
“We welcome the establishment of the new Executive and look forward to working with our elected representatives to bring forward new legislation on stalking and coercive control. Domestic violence victims and survivors in Northern Ireland deserve the same protections that are available in the rest of the UK and Ireland.”
You can follow the conference across the organisation’s social media channels: