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Last Updated: Monday, 10 October 2005, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
Plan to tackle domestic violence
The government plans to offer more help for victims
The government plans to offer more help for victims
A five-year strategy to help combat domestic violence in Northern Ireland has been launched by the government.

Entitled Tackling Violence at Home, it brings together groups such as the police, Department of Health, victims' charities and the Probation Board.

The police deal with more than 20,000 domestic incidents every year with an average of five cases ending in murder.

Criminal Justice Minister David Hanson said the plan deals with prevention, protection and supporting the victims.

"Shocking as the statistics are, they do not portray the impact on society," said Mr Hanson.

"They do not portray the long-term adverse effects on the thousands of children who are the silent witnesses of this crime; and they certainly do not portray the devastating impact the violence has on the victims themselves and their families."

Mr Hanson also announced additional funding for a project working with perpetrators and their families to be continued in Belfast and extended to other areas.

He said: "We have a challenging programme of actions before us under this strategy to bring the issue of domestic violence more into the open, to raise standards of services for victims and to focus more attention on the perpetrators of this vicious crime."

Domestic violence results in about 700 families in Northern Ireland being rehoused each year.

David Hanson
David Hanson announced details of the new strategy

Patricia Lynas of Woman's Aid said the new strategy would give a better framework for dealing with the issue.

"We know we have to do something to prevent domestic violence happening, to prevent it reoccurring," she said.

"We know we have to get the protection and justice system right, so that when women do use the protection and justice system they get what they need.

"When we are looking at support, that women and children can get the support services, the information, they need to enable them to leave the relationship or to seek help whilst staying in it, so that they are safe."

A majority of domestic violence victims are women but a significant number of men are affected too and abuse also occurs in same-sex relationships.

Maxine McCutcheon of the Men's Advisory Project said she hoped the new strategy would raise awareness of violence against men.

"It is not culturally acceptable for men to experience abuse - sometimes they don't know that there is help available," she said.

"We are one of the only services that provides a service to male victims and obviously we would want to get it out there that men can get help. We are working in partnership with other organisations.

"We hope that through that we will be able to present the case that men can come forward."

These programmes are not a soft option - we believe that men can change
Paul Doran
Probation Board

Work to protect the victims is already under way.

A recent change in the law now means that common assault is an arrestable offence.

There are also plans to make improvements within the judicial system which will encourage victims to take their cases to court.

The Probation Board for Northern Ireland has developed a group therapy programme to help rehabilitate offenders.

Paul Doran, who is involved in the scheme, said there was evidence to show men's attitudes can change.

"This programme is based on research from North America and Europe," he said.

"It looks at things such as the impact on children, man's belief that he has the right to control his partner's life and looks at ways that he can reduce violent behaviour as well as emotional abuse.

"These programmes are not a soft option.

"We believe that men can change - some men can change, it doesn't work for all men but for those it does work for, it can offer hope to future victims and protect future victims."

Domestic violence course launched
12 Sep 05 |  Derbyshire
Drink blamed for home abuse rise
31 Aug 05 |  South East Wales
Abuse victims offered help on web
24 Jun 05 |  Berkshire
'Pioneering' abuse centre opens
19 May 05 |  Lancashire


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