Foyle Women’s Aid working ‘to get women and children to safety’

The head of Foyle Women’s Aid has encouraged anyone experiencing domestic violence to contact the charity for help.

Marie Brown was speaking as the organisation launched the ‘Unlock Your Lockdown’ campaign locally.

The campaign was launched in response to the huge spike in domestic violence incidents reported in Derry and Strabane over the last year.

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More than 3,000 incidents were reported to police and there was a dramatic increase in reports during lockdown.

“For many of the women we work with experiencing domestic violence all year is lockdown. All year, every year,” she said. “During lockdown women were contacting us through various means and our support workers were available. We followed all the regulations, but it was urgent that we kept services going.”

Marie said the charity is concerned about another increase in incidents during this lockdown and in the run up to Christmas. “We are always busier at Christmas and this year it is a bit of the unknown because of the Covid regulations. We are trying to prepare as best we can and there will be workers on call throughout Christmas so access to services will be available.”

She added that Foyle Women’s Aid will also be working with their interagency partners ‘so we can get women and children to safety’.

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Marie encouraged women to seek help as ‘telling someone is just the beginning and we will be here to help and support you on whatever your journey is’.

She said that while it is good women are coming forward and reporting domestic violence incidents, many are not.

“Domestic violence is very high in this area and we need to be supported to provide services to tackle that. Children and young people are in these homes and they are emotionally damaged as a result. It can be fixed if there are interventions, but there isn’t enough interventions.

“In this day and age we should be looking at prevention if we are ever going to tackle the high figures in this area.”

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Marie raised concerns about the domestic violence bill currently going through Stormont and said it does not offer the same rights to victims as similar bills in other parts of the UK did.

“The bill going through Stormont has no resources attached to it. It does not allow victims of domestic violence to have the same rights as victims in England and Scotland, where there was a right to a home included in the bills.

“That is a big issue for anyone experiencing domestic violence. In order to leave you need a home to go to and the bill going through the Executive needs to address that, otherwise women and children will not come out.”

She said that politicians here need to ensure that ‘we don’t get a cheaper, less effective bill here in NI’.