Government to tackle ‘societal attitudes and beliefs’ around domestic violence

·3-min read
Justice Minister Naomi Long joined the call for victims and survivors of violence against women to make their voices heard (PA) (PA Archive)
Justice Minister Naomi Long joined the call for victims and survivors of violence against women to make their voices heard (PA) (PA Archive)

Government ministers have called for the public’s view on how the Executive should tackle societal attitudes, beliefs and behaviours around domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Executive Ministers said they are committed to challenging the critical issues and to creating a society where “everyone is safe and protected from all forms of violence and abuse”.

First Minister Paul Givan, deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, Justice Minister Naomi Long and Health Minister Robin Swann urged the public, including victims and survivors, to make their voices heard in its bid to deal with the issues.

The Equally Safe Strategy: A Strategy to Tackle Violence Against Women and Girls, from the Executive Office, is being designed to address societal attitudes, beliefs and behaviours.

Ministers said the Domestic and Sexual Abuse Strategy, from the Departments of Health and Justice, seeks to adopt an inclusive approach and apply to all victims, regardless of gender or gender identity.

The wide-ranging engagement on the two new strategies will run through to March 7 this year.

Mr Givan said that violence and the fear of violence has “long-lasting, life-changing impacts on the most personal aspects” of the lives of women and girls.

“It limits their life-chances and causes misery to individuals and their families. This, in turn, reverberates out into the workplace and wider community,” Mr Givan added.

“We want a society in which all are equally safe; where everyone is respected and can reach their full potential. Addressing this issue will take a combined effort – that involves government at every level, statutory bodies and grassroots organisations, but also individuals – we all have a part to play.

Anyone can be a victim, just as anyone can be an abuser.

Naomi Long

“It has no place in our society. I would encourage as many people as possible to reach out and engage in the development of these strategies.”

Ms O’Neill said: “This is a priority issue for me, and the Executive is united in its determination to end the abhorrent violence and abuse against women and girls in our society.

“From the most heart-breaking stories to the unwanted behaviour that makes many women uncomfortable and anxious every day, we know the impact that violence against women and girls has every day. It has no place in our society and it must stop.

“Much good work is already being done but the time has come for a step change in how these issues are addressed.

“Our approach is ambitious and focused on working collaboratively.

“We want you to help us to look at root causes, track the progression from damaging attitudes towards abusive behaviours and understand how to intervene at the earliest possible stages.”

Ms Long said: “Tackling domestic and sexual abuse is, and will continue to be, a key priority for us. Anyone can be a victim, just as anyone can be an abuser.

“Tackling this issue warrants a dedicated approach, an identifiable strategy, with specific commitments.

“While we have already taken a number of important steps to address domestic and sexual abuse, including new legislation to make domestic abuse an offence, there is more to do.”

Mr Swann said it is particularly important that to hear the views of as wide a range of society as possible.

“We want to hear from our statutory and voluntary sector partners who have much expertise, experience and knowledge to bring as well as those who have been affected by domestic and sexual abuse, those with lived experience,” he added.

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