The N. Ireland Justice Minister has said tackling domestic and sexual abuse is a ‘key priority.’
Clare Sugden was speaking at an event to mark 40 years of Foyle Women’s Aid in Derry’s Guildhall.
Among those present were professionals who work in the area of domestic and sexual violence, in partnership with Foyle Women’s Aid and victims of domestic abuse.
The minister said: “I consider breaking the cycle of domestic violence and abuse will have a positive impact on many societal issues we face and I am committed to working in partnership with others to do so.
“However, when domestic violence and abuse does happen it is essential that victims are fully supported and protected through services provided by organisations such as Foyle Women’s Aid.”
The event was a celebration of the growth of Foyle Women’s Aid over the last 40 years and charted how the organisation has become the leading domestic and sexual violence agency in the North West.
Their vision for the future was also outlined, in particular, the One Safe Place family justice centre project.
Foyle Women’s Aid Director, Marie Brown said: “Forty years ago there were virtually no services in Derry for women and children who were experiencing domestic abuse. Women in this city did something extraordinary about that.
“In the midst of very dark times in Derry, they took over a building at considerable risk to themselves and created a place of safety for women and children for whom home was a more dangerous place to be,” she added.
Ms Brown added: “In one way it is sad that we are here 40 years later still trying to tackle the issue of violence against women and children, but in another way it is a celebration of all the services now in place and of the lives of women that have been saved or charged forever.”
One victim of domestic violence, who attended the event, told the ‘Journal’ Foyle Women’s Aid had saved her life.
The woman, who does not wish to be named, said she would never have had the strength to leave her abusive partner without their support.
“When you are in a safer environment it is easier to make proper decisions. It can be hard to leave an abusive relationship, especially when you have children. Women’s Aid helped me slowly, but very surely, to develop myself with support and after care.
“Foyle Women’s Aid enabled me to be a happy woman and mother today.”