Alcohol Action Ireland, the national independent advocate for reducing alcohol harm, note the publication of the Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual & Gender-Based Violence 2022-2026, and welcome the recognition of children as victims in their own right.
Bearing witness to domestic abuse is an adverse childhood experience (ACE) that can cause problems into adulthood and children must be supported when it occurs in their family. AAI looks forward to progressing an Operation Encompass style system of support (Implementation Plan, 2.5.2) whereby schools are informed if Gardai are at a child’s home and assist the child as needed. This is an example of the clear cross agency/departmental thinking that is required in considering the issue of alcohol in domestic abuse.
We are, however, deeply disappointed that alcohol and other substances were not highlighted as risk factors for both people who experience domestic abuse and perpetrators.
We understand that alcohol and drugs can never be used as an excuse for domestic abuse, but by not mentioning them at all and the impact they have in respect of this issue, we are in danger of sanitising people’s lives and refusing to recognise the complexity and overlapping issues that perhaps do not fit neatly into boxes or departmental remits.
Dr. Sheila Gilheany, CEO, Alcohol Action, said:
“AAI believes the omission of alcohol as a risk factor for perpetrators and people who experience domestic abuse, is unhelpful in a country where so many people use alcohol harmfully and that alcohol treatment and regulation policies must form part of any strategy seeking to prevent and curtail domestic abuse.”
Prof. Catherine Comiskey, co-author of a recent Saol report – In Plain Sight: A Rapid Review of the International Literature and a National Estimate of the Prevalence of Women Who Use Substances and Experience Domestic Violence in Ireland, commented:
“‘As not only the Chairperson of the Scientific Committee of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction but also an experienced researcher I welcome this support for domestic violence services, however, I think it is essential that we also highlight the extenuating needs of women and families who use substances and experience violence in their homes. Women who endure violence in their homes and who use substances are unseen and their needs unknown. They are forced to experience a duality of secrecy for the protection of themselves and their children. Our work within Trinity College provides the first minimum estimates of national prevalence and presents evidence on the need for accessible, targeted, and specific interventions.”
Professor Jo-Hanna Ivers, Assistant Professor in Addictions at the School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin, also expressed disappointment at the lack of visibility for certain cohorts of women:
“Despite the well-established relationship between alcohol and substance use and interpersonal violence victimisation, women who use alcohol and drugs are often turned away from domestic violence services and shelters. Similarly, substance use services are frequently not designed to accommodate the daily realities of women, mothers and caregivers who also experience domestic violence. Thus, this population continues to experience systematic barriers to both services. The absence of a clear strategy for an integrated model of care and support forces women with complex needs to choose between accessing support for their substance use or their experience of domestic violence, resulting in many women never receiving support for either issue.”
Read our blog on the issue here: