WOMEN’S safety will be the focus of an event marking International Women’s Day in Cork, this Friday. It comes against the backdrop of two recent landmark court cases — cases of violence against women.
The event this Friday at the Clayton Hotel on Lapp’s Quay will facilitate women from various communities across the city to come together to discuss issues around women’s safety.
The brainchild of Cork City Partnership, the event speakers will include Detective Sergeant Clare Corcoran and Detective Garda Hilary Lynch of the Garda Protective Services Unit; Liz Madden of Mna Feasa domestic violence project in Cork city, and Margo Noonan, who is a clinical nurse specialist at the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit.
The event will be opened by the Lord Mayor, Cllr John Sheehan.
It comes just weeks after a Supreme Court decision on sentencing in a case of marital or intimate partner rape. The court ruled that a ten-year sentence imposed on a man whose sentence was cut by the Court of Appeal should be re-instated.
That decision, which was welcomed by the victim as well as the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, came two weeks after the first conviction and sentencing were secured for coercive control in an Irish court.
The foundation for next Friday’s event was laid last November when a national conference was hosted by Cork City Partnership entitled Women’s Safety — an Equality Issue.
Chief executive of Cork City Partnership, Brenda Cahill, says such events are aimed at opening up a conversation about women’s safety. She explains that this in turn will help women question what is the State doing for women’s safety, and why do women feel that society blames them when violence against them occurs.
She elaborates: “It is about being able to change our lot in life as women and get women thinking that this is not acceptable. Safety is an equality issue.”
She believes there is still a lot to do to help women feel safe. But she says that the introduction two years ago of the new law around the area of coercive control is a huge step forward in the area of legislating for women’s safety, particularly as people can be slow to recognise the elements of coercive control.
She outlines: “Coercive control is huge but people do not understand it. The fact that it has been made a crime is fantastic.”
She adds: “For a lot of women in coercive control situations, they feel incredibly helpless.”
On February 11, a man was given a two and a half year sentence, with nine months suspended, in Donegal after pleading guilty to counts of coercive control, harassment and making threats to damage property.
Ms Cahill believes it is as important for women to have legislation around the issue of safety as it is to have employment equality rights.
And she feels that the area of crimes of violence against women still has a lot of silence around it.
She says: “People are afraid to talk about it. It is time to dispel some of the myths.”
The event on Friday aims to raise awareness of the issue of women’s safety and to take away myths that women are somehow to blame for violence against them because of what they wear or where they walk or what time of the day. Ms Cahill explains that such a move aims to help take away the blame from women.
The issue of blame is often raised by victims after court cases, particularly in sexual offence cases, with some victims claiming they have felt like they were on trial, instead of the perpetrator.
Ms Cahill says it is important that women stop blaming themselves when they become victims of violence. And she adds that it is important that women also know what supports are available to them when they are victims of violence.
She explains: “What are the supports that are there for victims — if something happens to you or your daughter for example, would you recommend them to go to court?” The aim of next Friday’s event is to spread awareness of the issues around women’s safety and to create a knowledge of the services available for women affected by violence.
Ms Cahill says last November’s national conference served as a good tool to highlight how many services are available to women, not just nationally but also locally in Cork.
She adds: “I was very reassured at the national conference that all the organisations work so closely together as part of a team. It means a more rounded service when they all work together. It is a wrap-around service.”
OSS Cork 1800 497 497; Mna Feasa, Cork city (021) 4211757; National Sexual Violence Helpline 1800 778888.