Belfast Telegraph

Foyle refuges full after festive spike in domestic abuse

By Donna Deeney

A spike in domestic violence over the festive period has put emergency accommodation under severe pressure.

In Londonderry the increase in the number of women and children seeking refuge with Foyle Women's Aid meant there were no places left over Christmas and the New Year period.

All of the group's crisis homes were occupied over the holiday period which meant it had to seek help outside of the Foyle area.

The charity said it expects the situation to get even worse during January.

Foyle has the highest number of incidents of reported domestic violence in Northern Ireland.

The latest available figures for incidents of domestic violence across Northern Ireland stands at 13,558 from April to September — a hike of almost 1,200 from the previous year.

The figure in Foyle alone was 1,211.

The PSNI has adopted a number of initiatives to tackle domestic violence.

Among them was an advertising campaign ahead of the Christmas period because this is traditionally a time when there are a higher number of domestic abuse attacks.

Detective Superintendent Alan Skelton said: “We know from our research that incidents of domestic abuse rise over the festive season. It is a frightening crime which can affect anyone regardless of age, race, gender or sexuality.

“Very often victims are isolated. No one should have to endure abuse and I want to encourage all victims of domestic abuse to come forward and report the matter to the police.

“We take domestic abuse very seriously and have dedicated domestic abuse officers/public protection officers in all districts across Northern Ireland to ensure that all domestic abuse crimes are investigated, as well as providing support and information to victims about police procedures and legal proceedings.”

The figures for some areas are quite shocking.

In east Belfast there were 787 reported incidents; in north Belfast 1,185; south Belfast 480; west Belfast 764; Foyle 1,211, Craigavon 829 and Lisburn 777.

Marie Brown from Foyle Women's Aid said the organisation was stretched to the limit during Christmas time but it is bracing itself for more requests for help in the coming weeks.

She said: “During December it was busy for us; we do a lot of outreach work and court support and that was busy was well.”

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