Perpetrators of domestic violence still “draw on paramilitary connections to threaten their partner”, a study by Ulster University has found.
The research study explored “experiences of and responses to” domestic violence, how these were impacted by the Troubles, and the changes that have taken place since the Good Friday Agreement.
Ulster University say it is the first study of its kind comparing findings on domestic violence during conflict to what happens afterwards.
With support from Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland, approximately 120 women victim/survivors of domestic violence were interviewed; 56 women in 1992 and 63 in 2016.
A spokesperson for Ulster University said the key findings included: “The threat of firearms that previously existed in domestic violence situations has been greatly reduced as a result of the decommissioning of weapons and the demobilisation of paramilitary groups.”
The study also found that “perpetrators of domestic violence still draw on paramilitary connections to threaten their partner in 2016 but this has less impact than it did in the 1992 study.”
The spokesperson continued: “Paramilitary style attacks are much less likely to be used to punish perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence in 2016 compared to 1992.
“Post conflict, police officers have become more responsive to domestic violence. The increase in training, quicker response times and greater accessibility for police to nationalist/republican and loyalist working class areas are significant factors here.
“A strong link continues to exist between domestic violence and poor mental health, with one in four women in the 2016 study reporting that they had attempted to take their own life and one in two reporting suicidal thoughts.
“Sexual abuse in domestic violence relationships is more prevalent than official statistics suggest. Almost half of those interviewed in 2016 reported that they had been raped or sexually assaulted by their husband/partner.”
The study makes a number of recommendations based on the findings including: “The benefits of police reform, the removal of illegal firearms and the regulation of legal firearms should be applied to other societies emerging from conflict given their positive impact on domestic violence.”
The study also recommends that the legislation incorporating coercive control and psychological abuse should not be delayed any further in Northern Ireland.
Emeritus Professor Monica McWilliams, Ulster University said: “The peace process has made a huge difference but there is still much work to do. The research shows that while much progress has been made over the last 25 years, a more consistent approach is needed in preventing and providing support for domestic violence.”
Dr Jessica Doyle, Research Associate, Ulster University said: “Domestic violence remains a key problem in our society and one that must be addressed with greater protection for victims through legislative and policy change. It is clear from the research that preventing it has benefits not only for women but for future generations.”
Noelle Collins, Team leader Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid stated: “This is an invaluable piece of research which highlights how far we have progressed in our response to women and children experiencing domestic violence and shows what can be achieved when agencies come together to tackle this ongoing issue.”