Offaly Subgroup’s Report on Gender-Based Violence in Public Spaces is disturbing but not surprising
Report highlights that women in general and men from minority groups are most likely to adapt their behaviour because they feel unsafe
Says recommendations are profound and must be resourced and implemented.
The Report on Gender-Based Violence in Public Spaces was presented to the Offaly Joint Policing Committee this week; the findings of which are disturbing.
The report is the conclusion of the work of a Subgroup of the Joint Policing Committee. The work of the Subgroup, Chaired by Cllr Mark Hackett, included ‘Offaly Safe Day’ in June, a public online survey and consultation with support services. The final report makes 13 recommendations to increase safety from gender-based violence in public spaces.
It is being handed over to the Offaly Joint Policing Committee during the International 16 days of Action Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign.
Focusing first on the positive; this report shows us that, during the day, most of us feel safe from gender-based violence in our public spaces in Offaly. But women and members of minority groups like LGBT+ or Travellers are more likely to feel unsafe and to change their behaviour. This inequality is magnified at night.
In response to a question in the online survey asking ‘have you experienced gender-based harassment in public amenities in your area within the last 5 years?’, nearly 1 in every 4 of the responses were ‘Yes’. All of these were women. That is disturbing but not surprising. But what did surprise and horrify me was that one in three of these women said that the harasser was an ex intimate partner.
This brings the need for a dedicated refuge space in Offaly into sharp focus yet again and I will continue to work with Government colleagues on this. I welcome the progress on ‘Safe Home units’ to accommodate victims of domestic abuse in the community with one in each of the Municipal Districts of Offaly on track to come into operation in the coming months. But a refuge is needed urgently.
I particularly welcome the Report’s recommendations focused on improving access to safe spaces for those experiencing Domestic Violence: Extending the safe pharmacy scheme and delivering awareness training for all Offaly County Council staff and elected representatives. These are small but significant steps.
I welcome each of the 13 recommendations of this report: They promote inclusion, collaboration and an ongoing commitment to zero tolerance of gender-based violence. As a public representative I will do whatever I can to ensure these recommendations are implemented and resourced.
Summary Recommendations, and the Pillar of the Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual & Gender-Based Violence Implementation Plan which they align with:
Pillar 1: Prevention
Goal: Working towards the eradication of the social and cultural norms that underpin and contribute to gender-based violence.
That existing collaboration between stakeholders (lead CYPSC), on the development of healthy relationship workshops, is supported through to delivery in 2023 to schools and to reach young people not in formal education. And to pursue funding for this.
Increased visibility of Gardai through Beat and Bike Patrols.
That a member of the Traveller community is invited to join the Joint Policing Committee.
That Offaly County Council design and planning teams consult with AGS at design stage to ‘design out crime’ both directly when planning public amenities and when working with developers.
That an interagency working group be established to progress an application under section 38 of the Garda Siochana Act 2005, to extend the CCTV system from Tullamore town to the Greenway/Canal Line amenity and public space.
That a Brochure / Leaflet on the above survey results, recommendations and actions is created and distributed within 6 months of finalisation of report, or by next Offaly Safe Day Celebration. Plain English format.
That the JPC and Offaly County Council continue with Offaly Safe Day in June of each year to promote safety from risk of violence based on perceived ‘difference’ in all public spaces. Stakeholders from minority groups and all community groups to be invited to participate in their local event in 3 main towns. This do be promoted as a celebration of public spaces in Offaly as safe spaces.
That Domestic Violence (DV) awareness training And Traveller Culture awareness training Is provided for and undertaken by all OCC staff, all elected representatives and all members of the JPC as one steptowards an increased general awareness. Lapel pin idea, signifying ‘I am DVaware’ is pursued.
That Offaly County Council pursues all options to support the Night-Time economy, Town Centre First policies and mixed planning projects in order to encourage footfall in our towns at night-time.
That the National Transport Authority and Dept of Transport accelerate rural mobility plans for County Offaly.
Pillar 2: Protection
Goal: Ensure that victims/survivors (adults and children) have immediate and longer-term access to safety, support and advocacy they need, with agencies held accountable for the protection of victims/survivors
That an awareness campaign be run in connection with the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. This awareness campaign is to let the public know what they can do when being stalked and what to expect from the Gardai if they report stalking.
That ODVSS is supported to extend the ‘safe place’ system currently operating with Totalhealth to all pharmacies in County Offaly and any other businesses which could feasibly offer a safe place. That lapel pin idea, signifying ‘I am DV aware’ is pursued.
That all venues, festivals and events supported by Offaly County Council sign up to the Safe Gigs Charter
You can read the full report here:
UPDATE: I am delighted to note that the report and recommendations were adopted by Offaly County Council at this month's meeting, Feb 2023.