Cllr Martina O’Connor: “We need to stop victim blaming”

Galway’s female politicians have come together to “actively” work with schools and gardai to raise awareness on violence against women.

It follows an article published, last week, in a local newspaper by Green Party Councillor and member of Galway Women’s Caucus, Martina O’Connor. The Caucus is a coalition of female city and county councillors across the county.

Cllr O’Connor said that the Caucus is looking to change the narrative “that only the victim can act or has responsibility for changing a violent situation”, but rather, “sharing the responsibility across the board”.

“My article in particular focused on the fact that we keep saying ‘protect yourself this way and protect yourself that way’. But in fact, there’s lots more that can be said specifically addressing the person who’s committing these crimes, rather than specifically addressing just the victim and putting the responsibility with the victim,” she said.

Cllr O’ Connor said that the issue is that “we don’t even try” to tell the abusers to control themselves and to seek help against their violence.

“There is almost no punishment in Court, if you bring somebody to court. And that should be an end case scenario. Bullying for example, the narrative around that changed completely. We, now, are trying to support, to engage and understand why the bully would do such a thing. It’s the same with this and on the time, the narrative has been ‘don’t go out at night, go with people’.

Cllr Martina O’ Connor. Picture from Galway Advertiser.

“When in fact, I find that we can begin to say things like ‘why don’t you just walk out your front door if you begin to feel violent’. If it was even a half a dozen people a year that did that, it will be half a dozen less assaults,” she said.

Cllr O’Connor said that the abusers should seek help through call lines or therapy “to learn how to recognise their symptoms”.

“We could refer them a link. Put that link every time there’s a violent incident up on the news for the abuser not just always for the victim. It needs a wraparound approach. Be it through school education, be it through supports for perpetrators of violence ” she said.

Manager of Domestic Violence Response , Elizabeth Power, said the men who enrol in these support groups acknowledge that they are violent in the their relationships and are actively seeking to change.

“I would certainly be suggesting that for perpetrators to be aware of those kinds of programs for support. They focus on therapeutic and education support in relation to control and violence in abusive relationships,” she said.

Cllr Shelly Herterich Quinn is calling for an education programme against unwanted male attention towards female students to be implemented.

Cllr Herterich Quinn said that the murder of Ashling Murphy has prompted schoolgirls in her local town of Athenry, to report to their parents that they are being harassed by some of their male peers.

The plan is to introduce workshops into schools across the country, with Transition Year students being the primary focus.

“At a meeting for the Joint Policing Committee for Education and Awareness, I mentioned that I reached out to the principal of Clarin College, Daniel Hyland, and he was incredibly open to introducing the programme to the school,” she said.

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Cllr Shelly Herterich Quinn

She said that preferably, educators of some description would be best suited to carry out the programme in schools.

“We are a sub-committee for Education and Awareness, however we actually don’t have any qualified educators on the committee, so that’s something we are seeking out for,” she said.

For more information about support groups who deal with male perpetrators of domestic abuse you can visit at www.moveireland.ie and www.mensnetwork.ie/mend/.

Additional reporting by Claire Sammon.


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