Rise In NI Homeless Domestic Violence Victims

The number of people forced out of their homes in Northern Ireland by domestic violence is on the rise, the government has confirmed. Women are suffering broken bones and miscarriages after being attacked while pregnant, and aid organisations said up to six women were murdered every year.

Victims, at the end of their tether after years of physical and mental abuse, are fleeing to the Housing Executive and private charities.

“Domestic violence devastates lives and the decision to leave home can never be taken lightly but when faced with a life of physical abuse and concern about the effects on your children, often leaving home is the only option,” Women`s Aid spokeswoman Stephanie Mallon said.

The number of victims claiming homelessness rose from 684 in 2003/04 to 798 in 2005/06.

Ulster Unionist MP Lady Sylvia Hermon obtained the figures in Westminster.

The Housing Executive has responsibility for housing many homeless people.

Women`s Aid has around 2,000 women and children staying at its shelters every year after experiencing domestic abuse.

“We have seen a 36 per cent rise in the number of reports to police over the last two years,” Ms Mallon added.

“This is a rise in the number of people recognising that abuse is wrong.”

She said somebody was abused every 22 minutes and the decision to leave home often followed years of emotional and sexual abuse.

That is when women are most vulnerable to murder and serious assault and it can be a fraught time for the most determined victim.

“It is about power and control, things like putting out cigarettes on victims, humiliation and the range of sexual abuse, rape etc,” Ms Mallon added.

There have been 603 homelessness claims to February this year.

Tony McQuillan, director of Shelter, which supports the homeless, said women were becoming more prepared to admit the harm.

“People are not afraid to make the comment about domestic violence,” he said.