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2015 Press Releases

Calls for intervention to tackle root of domestic abuse

12 Nov 2015
Research conducted by Dr Louise Crowley of the School of Law, UCC with MOVE (Men Overcoming Violence) Cork found that 50% of interviewees had never appeared before the civil or criminal courts for domestic violence. Photo: Tomás Tyner

Ireland is failing victims of domestic abuse by not adequately intervening with the perpetrators, international experts will urge at University College Cork this Friday.

Existing state responses to domestic abuse are typically reactive and under-resourced, a conference hosted by the School of Law at UCC will hear.

The need for a domestic abuse intervention system which seeks to effect change in the behaviour of the perpetrator in order to improve the lives of victims will be explored.

“Whilst priority is rightly given to providing for and protecting vulnerable women and children, we must now seek to break the cycle of gender-based violence and where at all possible, tackle the root of the abuse,” said Dr Louise Crowley of the School of Law, UCC.

The potential value of an integrated approach to the complexities of domestic violence has been recognised nationally and internationally. The capacity for change amongst perpetrators may be limited to the minority, but where possible change must be encouraged, she said.

Developing a holistic response which includes a targeted intervention for perpetrators can reduce the risk of re-offending, according to Dr Crowley.

Recent high profile tragic outcomes have highlighted the devastating outcome for victims of domestic abuse, estimated to affect one in every five women, with an underreporting of crime by both victims and statistics in Ireland. Whilst domestic violence affects men and women; both research and the everyday experiences of domestic violence services demonstrate the undeniable gendered dimensions of domestic abuse.

At present inadequate and insufficient services are provided for incarcerated men, and equally few targeted services are available for men who seek to address their own aggressive behaviour. “For those who seek help, it must be available. For those who need help, perhaps it ought to be mandatory. Without behavioural change, how can we improve the lives of women and children?”

The success of perpetrator intervention programmes depends upon the effectiveness of the systems in which they operate, and the ability to establish a co-ordinated, comprehensive community response, involving the Courts, An Garda Siochána, the Probation Service, Tusla and Women's support services, to reinforce the message that violence against women and children will not be tolerated and that the strongest sanctions will apply.

“However, there must co-exist a willingness to provide the opportunity for abusers to tackle their own behaviour, where such intervention provides a possibility for reduced incidents of abuse,” Dr Crowley said.

Reference will be made to preliminary research data developed through collaboration between Dr Crowley and MOVE (Men Overcoming Violence) Cork, and in the context of the services currently offered by MOVE Cork, White Ribbon Ireland and the Irish Probation Service.

A voluntary, self-governed body, MOVE Ireland aims to support the safety and well-being of women and their children who are experiencing, or have experienced, abuse in an intimate relationship, by facilitating men in a weekly group process.

Research conducted by Dr Crowley in workshops with participants in the MOVE programme in Cork found that 50% of the interviewees had never appeared before the civil or criminal courts for domestic violence. The majority of interviewees viewed the legal system as too lenient and according to one participant, “if the victim doesn’t push it there isn’t a conviction.”

On the positive impact of MOVE Cork, another participant commented: “I won’t be cured....this is with me....I need structure.... I am in the health system for years, this finally works....the structure helps....I would lose my way without structure.... It helps to talk, get it out of my head....I hear about other people and it gives me hope and I learn from it....It took a while to get comfortable in the group....It’s good to meet people.”

On the benefits of intervention, another participant said: “It took me a year and a half to get to honesty here, and I must stick at it....this is a forever issue for me and you need time to get there. I am 20 years in the system and I think that half the country should be in a programme like this – MOVE allows me to train my brain how to act, continuously....I am learning the causes for my behaviour here in MOVE.”

Progressive approaches evident in Scotland and Australia will be outlined by international guest speakers to provide an invaluable insight into the possibilities for reform of Irish laws and processes.

To demonstrate the potential for successful intervention the Scottish Caledonian experience will be outlined by Rory Macrae of Safer Families Edinburgh, one of a three-person team responsible for developing the Caledonian System for tackling domestic violence and safeguarding families.

The Caledonian System is a criminal justice based domestic abuse intervention system which adopts an integrated approach to address men’s domestic abuse in order to improve the lives of women, children and men. It comprises an accredited programme of work with men that lasts at least two years, including individual motivational sessions; a twenty-six session group-work programme and ongoing maintenance work.

Importantly it provides a service to women partners, ex-partners and children, and aims to increase safety by operating in the context of protocols for the safe sharing of information.

The man’s risk of future domestic abuse is the focus of the men’s programme and supervision; the women and children’s physical safety and psychological well-being is the focus of the women’s and children’s service, in liaison with social work and other services and the voluntary sector.

“It is hoped that this sharing of knowledge and experience will direct the future of Irish law and policy reform and ultimately better safeguard those in abusive intimate relationships,” Dr Crowley added.

The conference will take place at UCC’s Brookfield complex on College Road from 9:30 to 13:30. Free of charge and open to the public, advance registration is advised as places are limited. To register, contact More details:

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF