Foyle justice centre a 'shining light' as Marie Brown reveals women abused every 16 minutes

The newly opened Foyle Family Justice Centre has been described by councillors as a 'shining light' for the work it does with victims of sexual and domestic abuse.

Alyson Kilpatrick (Barrister-at-Law, Chief Commissioner, NIHRC), and Marie Brown (CEO Foyle Women’s Aid), board members of the Family Justice Centre.
Alyson Kilpatrick (Barrister-at-Law, Chief Commissioner, NIHRC), and Marie Brown (CEO Foyle Women’s Aid), board members of the Family Justice Centre.

The centre at Bishop Street in the city, opened on Friday, September 2, providing specialist services for victims of domestic abuse, sexual violence, elder abuse and other vulnerable people.

The centre is the first and only one in Ireland or the UK. Offering 24-hour support, it eliminates the need for victims and survivors to recount their trauma over and over again to a large number of organisations involved.

Presenting to the Health and Community Committee, Marie Brown, Director of Foyle Family Justice Centre told members that abuse happens once every 16 minutes and one in four women will experience domestic or sexual abuse in their lifetime.

Alyson Kilpatrick (Barrister-at-Law, Chief Commissioner, NIHRC), and Marie Brown (CEO Foyle Women’s Aid), board members of the Family Justice Centre, which opened this month.

She said: “84% of the victims are aged 15 to 59 years of age, 69% are female, 3 in 5 are abused by their partner, spouse or ex spouse, ex partner and 86% of the perpetrators are male and these figures are increasing year on year.”

Ms Brown said the centre would provide a ‘joined-up service’.

“If somebody comes in the door they can get their domestic violence order, they can see the housing people, they can sort benefits if they need to," she said.

"They will get the service right on tap and that is very different to the current system we have."

Family Justice Centre board members at the new Family Justice Centre. From left, are Geraldine O’Hare (Director of Rehabilitation, PBNI), Alyson Kilpatrick (Barrister-at-Law, Chief Commissioner, NIHRC), Benn Keaveney (CEO Hammersmith Film, Ealing & Hounslow, MIND), Marie Brown (CEO Foyle Women’s Aid), Damian McAteer (Economist), Aisling Swaine (Professor of Gender Studies, UCD), and Karen O’Leary (Solicitor).

She continued: "Our vision is to save lives and to create really good interventions early on so we can start breaking the cycle of domestic violence early on."

Committee Chair councillor Steven Edwards congratulated Ms Brown on the opening of the centre. He also thanked the Foyle Family Justice Centre for the work they are doing supporting domestic and sexual abuse victims in the council area.

He commented: “I’ve read some articles about domestic abuse recently and to learn how difficult it is for victims to leave and get away from partners who inflict domestic abuse.

“In terms of provision you have in Derry, is it just Derry and the wider area you cater for or is it the whole of the North?

Ms Brown replied: “We are covering Derry, Limavady and Strabane but we will not turn away anybody that comes either. We have sometimes had women who have come to us from other jurisdictions for a range of reasons. We do not turn anybody away and any age group as well.”

DUP Alderman Maurice Devenney described it as ‘a vital piece of work’ adding: “For people who are going through abuse now I hope the message gets out that we have a centre open now. This centre gives some hope to people who are suffering.”

Alliance councillor Rachael Ferguson said the centre would ‘make such a difference to so many people’.

Sinn Féin councillor Michaela Boyle and UUP Alderman Darren Guy wished the centre the very best for the future, commending the work carried out.

Referring to the worrying trend of domestic abuse crimes, SDLP councillor Rory Farrell said: “In 2004 there were 10,000 recorded in the entire North and last year that figure doubled to over 20,000.

“When we look locally there were 2,400 domestic abuse crimes recorded across Derry City and Strabane council area in the last year which is a 17% increase on the previous year. So, the trajectory there is really depressing but what isn’t depressing is this service and the support you provide to people who have been affected by domestic abuse and the Foyle Family Justice Centre is a shining example of best practice across these islands.

“We should be singing from the rooftops about this. We aren’t proud of the statistics but we are immensely proud of the world class service and support you provide to people.”

If you need to contact the Foyle Family Justice Centre you can phone 028 7141 6800 or email – [email protected] Visit: https://foylefamilyjusticecentre.org