Thursday, 10 December 2020

Questions (69)

Emer Higgins


69. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Justice the steps she is taking to tackle sexual and domestic violence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41481/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can assure the Deputy that addressing all forms of domestic abuse and sexual violence is a key priority for me and my Department. We are continuously working to ensure that we have robust legislation, policies and infrastructure that can support and assist victims and hold perpetrators to account. We are also working proactively to raise awareness in society about domestic abuse and sexual violence and are working to change attitudes towards all forms of unacceptable behaviour.

I am progressing a number of important commitments to ensure that across the board we are responding to the needs of victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence. These include delivering on -

- The Programme for Government commitment for an audit of how domestic, sexual and gender based violence services are organised to ensure a comprehensive and responsive approach is taken to providing for the needs of victims of domestic abuse;  

- The review of outstanding action under the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence which is a whole of Government approach to delivering on the many actions necessary to address these matters. The outcome of this review will inform the Third National Strategy which is to be adopted before the end of 2021 and which will focus on prevention and reduction and will include a National Preventative Strategy.

- The full and timely implementation of Supporting a Victim's Journey - A plan to help victims and vulnerable witnesses in sexual violence cases which is a detailed roadmap for the introduction of the recommendations contained in the O'Malley review. These recommendation,  when implemented, will protect and support vulnerable witnesses during the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences.

- The continuation of campaigns to raise public awareness of sexual harassment, domestic and sexual violence in order to bring about a change in long-established societal behaviours and attitudes and to activate bystanders with a view to decreasing and preventing this type of behaviour and violence.

- Increased funding to support victims of crime and to raise awareness and combat domestic, sexual and gender-based violence  This year I have secured funding of  €4.104 million to support victims of crime and some €3 million for raising awareness of domestic, sexual and gender based violence. These figures reflect the additional €2.3 million provided in Budget 2021 for implementation of Supporting a Victim's Journey.

- The continuation of the additional covid specific resources, support, enforcement and services for key organisations working to provide support services to victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence during the pandemic and the continued prioritisation by frontline services of domestic abuse incidents.

- A major National Sexual Violence Prevalence Study, to look in detail at the experience of women and men victims of sexual violence and abuse in Ireland, with repeat large scale surveys every decade to be conducted by the CSO. This detailed and repeated study will ensure we have robust evidence to assist and drive Government policy.

The Deputy may also be interested to know that the rollout of the Divisional Protective Services Units (DPSU) within An Garda Síochána is now complete with DPSUs in every Garda division across the country. This will ensure that when vulnerable victims of crimes such as domestic abuse and sexual violence present to Gardaí, they are met with a consistently high standard of specialist, sensitive, professional and expert assistance.