Review of the National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender

March 20, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Social Science, Law, Criminal Justice
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Review of the National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Genderbased Violence 2010-2014 and Issues Arising in Relation to a New Strategy Introduction 1.1

Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Genderbased Violence was established in June 2007. After extensive consultations the National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, 2010-2014 was published. The mid-term review of the strategy was published in autumn 2012. The current document, with its appendices is the final review of the strategy.


As part of the end-term review of the national strategy, Cosc produced a draft questionnaire. After the experience of the mid-term review, where key informants were engaged in a semi-structured interview, it was felt that a questionnaire would produce more robust findings for the end-term review. This draft was circulated to the National Steering Committees for their views on 1 November,2013. A small number of drafting comments on the questionnaire itself were received.


The questionnaire was piloted informally among Cosc and Victims of Crime Office staff who would have varying exposure to different elements of the implementation of the national strategy. Minor changes, mainly of a presentational nature, were made on foot of this exercise. The questionnaire was circulated to almost 100 organisations and individuals in early March, 2014. It sought feedback on their experiences of the current National Strategy and requested input for the development of the next iteration of a national policy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.


Following a restricted call for tenders, a team from the University of Limerick (Dr. Eimear Spain, Ms. Sarah Gibbons and Prof Shane Kilcommins) was chosen to undertake a textual analysis of the 34 submissions received. A copy of that analysis appears as appendix 1. The analysis attempts to synthesise the views of those who made submissions and is organised around six themes identified by the researchers from the text analyzed. The executive summary of that document is clear and concise and no further summary will be attempted here. The full analysis gives a richly detailed synthesis of views expressed about the existing strategy and about the possible content of a future strategy. The questionnaire is appended to the analysis.


Achievements 2.1

It is important at the outset to acknowledge that there has been progress and achievements during the life-time of the national strategy. Some of the main successful actions and outputs are listed under eight headings below.


Victims’ experience of state services  Updated Garda policies on domestic violence and on sexual violence, including sexual abuse of children adopted  Updated national guidelines of practice for Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs) agreed  The Dublin Family Law Courts at Dolphin House are now housing voluntary sector resident support services for victims of domestic violence  Launch of a revised Victims Charter  Probation Service Domestic Violence Practice guidelines developed  Guidelines on making a victim impact statement in court published  Adoption of the European protection order (civil)  Development of material for the Garda intranet, the availability on the Garda website of leaflets in a number of languages on crime prevention, including a leaflet on domestic violence, and the inclusion of contact details of support services on the reverse of the garda business card  Comprehensive countrywide support service listing made available on the Cosc website ( – see under “local and national support services”)


Accountability of perpetrators  Improvements made in domestic violence perpetrator programmes, which are funded by Cosc  Amendment of domestic violence legislation to extend safety orders to cover parents of a child in common and civil partners as well as a change to the qualifying period  Increase in the number of domestic violence orders being sought and being granted  Continued development of sexual violence perpetrator programmes  Sex Offender Risk Assessment and Management (SORAM) office established  Stable and Acute (2007) and Risk Matrix (2000) established as standard tools on the island of Ireland and in Scotland for use by the police and probation services in relation to sex offenders  Legislative proposal published to decouple compensation awarded by a criminal court from a perpetrator to an offender and consideration by the judge of a prison sentence  Forensic evidence and DNA database system legislation enacted


Awareness and attitudes  Cosc funded ongoing national and local awareness raising of voluntary sector services for victims 2

 Engaging men in awareness raising – The Other Half, SAFE Ireland’s Man Up campaign and the White Ribbon campaign  High quality work on minorities e.g. Travellers and Roma  Increasing focus on national messaging / campaigns  Engagement with third level students working with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) on awareness raising and research  Working with the Irish Countrywomen’s Association and Muintir na Tíre to raise awareness  Quarterly Cosc ezine published  Raising awareness among younger population of dating issues with Women’s Aid 2n2u campaigns  Development of awareness raising apps by voluntary sector services  Highlighting of the issue of domestic violence and later of sexual violence with story lines on the popular RTE soap Fair City and the drama series Love/Hate  The development of guiding principles in relation to awareness raising work.  The development of a communications “how-to” paper on approaches to promoting and developing understanding of the issues among the general population and specific groups  Cosc’s research into attitudes to domestic violence in 2009 providing base-line data was a useful input into Cosc’s own media campaign entitled Your Silence Feeds the Violence  Cohosting of conference by the Bar of Ireland and the Law Society on domestic and sexual violence  Improved information on family law issues generally on the Courts Service website  Modification of the in camera rule to allow media reporting of family law cases, including domestic violence proceedings, first on a pilot basis and then by legislation  Revision by the Irish College of General Practitioners of Domestic Violence: A Guide for General Practice 2.5

Prevention  Cosc’s research which explored awareness raising of domestic and sexual violence in post-primary schools in Ireland, provided a better understanding of how the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme was working  Pending the development of second level materials Cosc funded some sexual violence programmes to visit and speak at some schools  Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) junior cycle material developed and being implemented in schools  Cosc circulated relevant third level colleges with course material on domestic violence developed as part of a transnational project by Mary Allen, late of UCD.


Policy making or service planning  Access to policy making and service planning for the voluntary sector through the National Steering Committees on Violence Against Women and Violence Against Men 3

 Relationships built and results achieved based on these  Commitment in the Programme for Government to develop reformed and consolidated domestic violence legislation  The HSE national policy and practice guide on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence was published  The establishment of the Child and Family Agency with a national funding and coordinating remit for domestic and sexual violence victim services  Cosc completed research on domestic violence and sexual violence service provision and coordination 2.7

Research or data collection  Inclusion of sexual violence victim data from most support services in the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) database  Domestic violence perpetrator programmes have made strides in relation to data gathering in partnership with Cosc with a view to better demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness of the programmes, and to find where improvement is necessary  An Garda Síochána have worked through their sexual violence offence data with the Central Statistics Office and a more robust time series is now available and published regularly  An Garda Síochána continue a programme of work with the Central Statistics Office in relation to the Garda Síochána domestic violence data


Structures or processes to support the strategy (consultation, meetings, six monthly review reports etc.)  Publication on the Cosc website of six-monthly progress reports on the National Strategy and of the midterm review of the strategy.  Programmes dealing with male domestic violence perpetrators are now represented on the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women  Strategy Oversight Group shows ongoing commitment to the national strategy of relevant government departments and state agencies


Outside the Strategy  Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence adopted in April 2011 (Istanbul Convention) and came into force on 1 August, 2014 for the initial 11 countries which had ratified the convention  Work commenced to permit Irish ratification of the Istanbul Convention  The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) has publicised its protocol for granting independent immigration status to nonnationals subject to domestic violence and is processing cases under it  The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) has published guidance on dealing with any sexual and domestic violence and harassment in its direct provision accommodation


 The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has agreed a protocol on the release of counselling notes in sexual violence cases with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions  There is a commitment to address the issue of counselling notes in sexual violence cases in sexual violence legislation  Daphne and Progress funding by the European Commission  The EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) has published the results of an EU wide survey on the incidence of violence against women across all 28 EU member states in March 2014.  The EU victims directive was adopted in October, 2012 and Ireland opted in to its negotiation and its terms.  Work by the Courts Service to improve facilities for victims in court buildings  The development of a more professional court accompaniment service funded by the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime for victims of domestic and sexual violence.  Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality invited submissions, had hearings and are preparing a report on domestic violence; there have also been Oireachtas debates and parliamentary questions on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence  International Conference on Survivors of Rape 2012 hosted by the Rape Crisis Network Ireland in Galway  Recognition in Rape and Justice in Ireland (2009), in speeches by the DPP and an RCNI blog on the role of alcohol in sexual violence offences  Publication by the Law Reform Commission of an uncertified restatement of domestic violence legislation, making the law more accessible to practitioners.

Progress of Strategy Activities 3.1

There have been positive developments as listed above, and other activities under the strategy are continuing. However, much remains to be done. There has been disappointing slippage in the national strategy, for a number of reasons, in relation to target dates and in relation to revised target dates. Revised dates arose as a result of a recommendation of the mid-term review.

Ambition for the next strategy 4.1

As part of the review of the current strategy organisations were asked to list activities which they themselves would undertake and activities which other organisations could advance. The University of Limerick analysis lists 149 activities recommended by the voluntary sector. The state sector overview contains 99 action items. Cosc was not immune from this high level of ambition for the next strategy. It listed 30 activities which it proposed to develop with others and 53 activities that other organisations might undertake. These numbers can be put in some context when one realises that there were 59 activities in the first strategy.


Realisable goals 5.1

The overview of the analysis of submissions discussed the impact of reduced resources on implementation of the strategy (page 3). It was suggested that the original strategy may have been overly ambitious and did not consider the changing economic environment (page 25). Both points strongly support the need to prioritise, so that a new strategy contains realistic and achievable actions. Constructive discussion on priorities would be helpful.

Living document 6.1

Once a strategy is drafted and adopted it begins to go out of date immediately, as the context continues to evolve and develop. However, it is always essential to have a plan to start with, so that activities are directed towards desirable goals. The overall goals of the strategy are unlikely to change radically over a number of years, but circumstances may change and new opportunities emerge, which the activities of the strategy should reflect. In other words, the strategic focus may remain broadly the same over time, but the tactics to achieve strategic aims may change. In particular, it may be that in a number of years time resources may not be as constrained as they are now. Therefore, a strategy with a moderate time span, could be reviewed and altered at its mid-point. Indeed as particular activities are completed or terminated additional activities might be included on an ongoing basis.

Elements of a new strategy 7.1

There would appear to be three elements contributing to the activities of the new strategy. Firstly, it is essential that worthwhile activities which are not completed in the timescale of the original strategy are carried forward into the new strategy. Secondly, as suggested by SAFE Ireland, a timeline should be set out in the next strategy “for all policy and legislative changes and actions needed to ensure the full enactment and implementation of the Istanbul Convention”(page 36). The Istanbul Convention is the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and it came into force in August 2014. Ireland has yet to sign or ratify the Convention. Thirdly, activities required to transpose the EU Victims Directive could make up part of the activities in any new strategy (pages 35-36).

Whose strategy? 8.1

The strategy is described as a “whole of Government” approach to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. However, the strategy is often also described as the Cosc strategy. Loosely speaking it is the Cosc strategy in that Cosc has endeavoured to promote a wide range of the activities under the strategy and Cosc undertakes the monitoring, and organises the relevant committee meetings. However, the use of this terminology hints at a lack of requisite ownership by state organisations.


Another perception is that the strategy is a state strategy, with the voluntary sector holding the state side to account in relation to its delivery of activities. Of course, the voluntary sector has a valid national advocacy role in relation 6

to victims of violence. However, this part of the voluntary sector spent close to €39m according to the 2012 audited accounts of its component organisations. The organisations in the sector have a key role as service deliverers. Any new strategy needs to acknowledge this role. 8.3

Each organisation involved in the strategy has its own ethos and way of working. There is a need for the other organisations to acknowledge this and for everyone to accommodate a diversity of approaches. This happens by and large. There is a difference between the approaches of state and voluntary sector organisations generally, which applies not just in this sector. The voluntary sector organisations produce a range of documents, but it values face to face contact, oral communication, and dialogue both structured and unstructured. The state sector is able to articulate its positions orally and to engage with and resolve issues in this way. However, when dealing with complex processes it is necessary to capture what is happening in some written form, whether that is a report or a spreadsheet.


In the current setting Cosc draws up a six-monthly progress report in the form of a table on all strategy activities. This document is a standing item on the agenda of the National Steering Committees. It is very noticeable that there has been almost no engagement with the document, and therefore with the progress of the strategy generally, at these meetings. Separate agenda items over the years on a particular activity, especially when addressed by a relevant expert, give rise to discussion and debate.

Gender 9.1

When Cosc was established this topic area moved from the gender equality side of the Department of Justice and Equality to the crime side of the Department. Coincidentally, this move has been consolidated since the midterm review. Crimes of violence including assault, assault causing harm, harassment and coercion are gender-neutral on the statute books. Either gender can be a victim or a perpetrator. In the structures, resources and activities of the national strategy, implementation and response is focussed more on women as victims and men as perpetrators, while acknowledging the possibilities of men as victims and women as perpetrators. It is noteworthy as an aside, that Amen, the sole dedicated voluntary sector organisation dealing with male victims of domestic violence spent €190,000 according to their 2012 published accounts. This is 0.6% of the expenditure of all domestic violence voluntary sector services in the same year. Some of those who sit around the table regard violence against women exclusively as another and pernicious manifestation and enforcer of women’s longstanding inequality with men in our society, and are reluctant to accept alternative analyses.


The tension between the two views comes to the fore in discussions from time to time. It also sometimes has other impacts. The National Steering Committee on Violence against Women reluctantly agreed to the addition of a single member representing the domestic violence perpetrator programmes. All of these programmes work closely with the women’s domestic violence services at a local level through partner contact mechanisms. On the ground these contacts have benefitted the perpetrators, their victims and the 7

organisations helping both. A less happy outcome has been the establishment perforce of the National Steering Committee on Violence against Men, which is effectively a bilateral meeting between Cosc and Amen.

Structures 10.1

Some comments on the National Steering Committees have been made above. The effective suspension of most of the Regional Advisory Committees is something that needs to be addressed in any new strategy. The analysis of submissions by the University of Limerick is notable for the lack of any reference to the Public Awareness sub-Committee, and only passing reference to the Legal Issues sub-Committee.

Political will 11.1

A further issue of concern, especially among the voluntary sector organisations, is the political will to drive forward a further national strategy. This has given rise to calls for a Minister of State to chair the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women. The political will in relation to a second strategy will be signalled by a Government decision to publish a strategy. Various ministers will have their efforts to progress legislation under any new strategy monitored and reviewed. It is a matter for the Government to decide on the appropriate structures to support and advise on any new strategy.

Location 12.1

The mid-term review succinctly summarised the position in relation to the location of Cosc and the home of the national strategy in the following two paragraphs. The role of Cosc as a lead agency with a focus on coordination of strategy implementation is widely accepted. Cosc should continue to focus its energy on coordination of the strategy, ensuring clarity with regard to progress and working to enhance the quality of services and information. There was a view raised by some respondents as to whether the Department of Justice and Equality is the most appropriate ‘home’ for Cosc, as much of the funding support is channelled through the health services. In this context, the planned establishment of the Child and Family Support Agency early in 2013 may provide an opportunity for an examination of more general arrangements for family and domestic support services with a view to considering if the location of Cosc should remain as it is. There are some strong arguments for Cosc remaining within Justice and Equality, given the centrality of crime and crime prevention to the strategy. Though conversely a case can be made for the area providing the greatest level of funding hosting the coordinating body, in this case the Department of Health. However, ultimately, location of the hosting department is unlikely to be the most crucial aspect determining Cosc’s effectiveness. Rather, it is the willingness of participating bodies to engage and provide the necessary resources to support the 8

implementation of the national strategy, with Cosc ensuring coordination and monitoring of progress. (page 34) 12.2 The Child and Family Agency has now been established, under the aegis of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. It is the primary funder of the voluntary sector organisations supporting victims of domestic and sexual violence. Cosc 17 September, 2014


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