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Tackling scourge of abusive partners

Editor's Viewpoint

The issue of domestic violence has taken on a new relevance in the public's mind following the murder of Fermanagh woman Concepta Leonard earlier this week.

Concepta will be buried today and her death is a chilling reminder of the potentially lethal consequences of an abusive relationship.

Although Concepta had taken out a restraining order against her former partner, it tragically did not safeguard her life.

While murders involving partners are relatively rare, the incidence of domestic abuse is grotesquely common.

In the last year police logged an incredible 30,000 incidents of this crime.

And even those figures may not give the full picture of the physical and mental abuse suffered by many behind closed doors.

It is overwhelmingly a crime against women and there is undoubtedly still a stigma attached to it in many women's mind that prevents them disclosing to authorities what they are suffering.

It is therefore encouraging to note that following Concepta's murder the number of abused women seeking help in the Fermanagh area has doubled.

A significant number obviously have decided to break their silence on the issue. At this time of profound grief for the Leonard family, it may be some consolation to them that Concepta's legacy is giving women the strength to report the crimes against them.

Who knows how many lives can be saved just by reporting abusive partners.

One positive measure women can take to help safeguard themselves is to apply to the courts for a restraining order against abusive partners.

As was seen in Concepta's case, this is not an ultimate deterrent, and police have revealed that in the 12 months to March, 492 non-molestation orders were breached.

It is obvious that such breaches must be treated seriously by the police and courts.

As Women's Aid in Fermanagh said, other legislative changes are required to give women added protection.

The cost of obtaining a restraining order may put some women off, and this financial burden should be kept to a minimum to ensure that applicants can get help when required.

Also, the suggested introduction of a domestic violence disclosure scheme, which would reveal a new partner's previous abuse record, would also be a valuable step forward.

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