Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has announced that she will be introducing new laws to make stalking and non-fatal strangulations stand-alone offences. These changes will implemented in the coming weeks after former University of Galway student Eve McDowell used her platform at Stalking.ie to strive for change.
Minister McEntee made the announcement while giving a speech on putting an end to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence at the Institute of International and European Affairs.
She went on to say the “sad reality” is violence towards women remains the biggest challenge faced in our society today. The Minister continued by stating that two in five women have experienced a form of psychological or physical abuse.
Co-founder of Stalking.ie and former University of Galway student Eve McDowell, welcomes the new laws that will help thousands of victims.
McDowell, being a victim of stalking back in 2019, knows too well the effects stalking has during and in the aftermath with the lack of resources that were in place at the time and the dubious guidance surrounding the consequences.
“After Una Ring and I chose to come forward with our personal stories as part of our campaign for specific stalking legislation, nothing could have prepared us for the onslaught of disclosures we began to receive both online and in person.”
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Lack of legislation
Whilst being a student in Galway, a fellow student became obsessed with McDowell, following her to social events, her workplace, and later breaking into her apartment. At the time there were no clear laws put in place in Ireland as to how to deal with the defendant or the victim.
“The prevalence of stalking in Ireland is far greater than any of us could have imagined. Up until 2 years ago no one from government had been vocal about stalking, or perhaps even knew about it. Now to see stalking being discussed in the Dáil and in the Seanad, and to see the legislation we campaigned for being welcomed across all parties, and publicly brings about a huge sense of relief.”
These new measures will be in full effect by the end of the year, with aims to encourage victims of stalking and domestic abuse to come forward with confidence that their experiences are heard and actions to be put in place accordingly.
Eve recognises the work that still needs to be done, “We still have a long way to go in terms of awareness raising and obtaining victim support services, but we are definitely heading in the right direction. The bill still has eight more stages to go through before it is enacted, so we need public support to keep it moving as fast as possible. We hope this law protects victims, enables Gardaí to intervene much earlier and validates the experiences of those who have had to endure being stalked.”
You can find more information on Stalking in Ireland’s website.