Review of the National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2010-2014

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Thirdly, activities required to transpose the EU Victims Directive could make up part of the activities in any new strategy (pages 35-36).
Whose strategy?

8.1 The strategy is described as a “whole of Government” approach to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. However, the strategy is often also described as the Cosc strategy. Loosely speaking it is the Cosc strategy in that Cosc has endeavoured to promote a wide range of the activities under the strategy and Cosc undertakes the monitoring, and organises the relevant committee meetings. However, the use of this terminology hints at a lack of requisite ownership by state organisations.

8.2 Another perception is that the strategy is a state strategy, with the voluntary sector holding the state side to account in relation to its delivery of activities. Of course, the voluntary sector has a valid national advocacy role in relation to victims of violence. However, this part of the voluntary sector spent close to €39m according to the 2012 audited accounts of its component organisations. The organisations in the sector have a key role as service deliverers. Any new strategy needs to acknowledge this role.
8.3 Each organisation involved in the strategy has its own ethos and way of working. There is a need for the other organisations to acknowledge this and for everyone to accommodate a diversity of approaches. This happens by and large. There is a difference between the approaches of state and voluntary sector organisations generally, which applies not just in this sector. The voluntary sector organisations produce a range of documents, but it values face to face contact, oral communication, and dialogue both structured and unstructured. The state sector is able to articulate its positions orally and to engage with and resolve issues in this way. However, when dealing with complex processes it is necessary to capture what is happening in some written form, whether that is a report or a spreadsheet.
8.4 In the current setting Cosc draws up a six-monthly progress report in the form of a table on all strategy activities. This document is a standing item on the agenda of the National Steering Committees. It is very noticeable that there has been almost no engagement with the document, and therefore with the progress of the strategy generally, at these meetings. Separate agenda items over the years on a particular activity, especially when addressed by a relevant expert, give rise to discussion and debate.

9.1 When Cosc was established this topic area moved from the gender equality side of the Department of Justice and Equality to the crime side of the Department. Coincidentally, this move has been consolidated since the mid-term review. Crimes of violence including assault, assault causing harm, harassment and coercion are gender-neutral on the statute books. Either gender can be a victim or a perpetrator. In the structures, resources and activities of the national strategy, implementation and response is focussed more on women as victims and men as perpetrators, while acknowledging the possibilities of men as victims and women as perpetrators. It is noteworthy as an aside, that Amen, the sole dedicated voluntary sector organisation dealing with male victims of domestic violence spent €190,000 according to their 2012 published accounts. This is 0.6% of the expenditure of all domestic violence voluntary sector services in the same year. Some of those who sit around the table regard violence against women exclusively as another and pernicious manifestation and enforcer of women’s longstanding inequality with men in our society, and are reluctant to accept alternative analyses.

9.2 The tension between the two views comes to the fore in discussions from time to time. It also sometimes has other impacts. The National Steering Committee on Violence against Women reluctantly agreed to the addition of a single member representing the domestic violence perpetrator programmes. All of these programmes work closely with the women’s domestic violence services at a local level through partner contact mechanisms. On the ground these contacts have benefitted the perpetrators, their victims and the organisations helping both. A less happy outcome has been the establishment perforce of the National Steering Committee on Violence against Men, which is effectively a bilateral meeting between Cosc and Amen.

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