WATCH: Charity hosts annual conference to tackle domestic violence in NI

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by Gráinne Connolly

Women's Aid has hosted its annual conference aimed at tackling domestic violence in Northern Ireland. 

This year, the theme is 'Changing the Conversation'.

In 2018/19 the PSNI responded to over 31,000 incidents of domestic violence, equating to one every 17 minutes of every day. 

Currently, Northern Ireland has the joint highest rate of domestic homicide per population in Europe. 

A spokesperson for the charity says, "Despite an increase in reporting and a growing change in mind set, domestic violence remains very much a hidden crime.

All too often society views domestic violence as a private family matter rather than a wider societal issue.

In recent years we have seen progression, but how far have we really come in changing the narrative around domestic violence? What more needs to be done to tackle, prevent and respond to domestic violence?

There are still many challenges facing women, support services and partner agencies.

Northern Ireland continues to lag behind the rest of the UK, and is the only jurisdiction without specific coercive control and stalking legislation.

Non-fatal strangulation, a prevalent issue in domestic violence, is another example of legislative challenges proving difficult to overcome and prosecute." 

Yesterday, Stormont's Justice Committee was told domestic abuse laws have been held up here for three-years, therefore, it's hoped to be one of the early pieces of legislation to be passed through the assembly. 

Meanwhile, Communities minister Deirdre Hargey addressed the event. 

She says domestic violence is an issue that will be a key priority for the entire executive. 

Kelly Andrews, Chief Executive of Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid, said:

"Our conference “Changing the Conversation” will bring together our partner agencies who have worked, and continue to work with us to address domestic violence, changing the mind set and conversations of the public along the way. 

We will discuss prevailing attitudes on how society perceives, and to what extent, tolerates domestic violence.

We welcome the establishment of the new Executive and look forward to working with our elected representatives to bring forward new legislation on stalking and coercive control. 

Domestic violence victims and survivors in Northern Ireland deserve the same protections that are available in the rest of the UK and Ireland."

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