First shelter for male victims of domestic abuse in Carrick

(file photo) Councillor Jim Brown speaking at a previous Cithrah event. ct31-001tc
(file photo) Councillor Jim Brown speaking at a previous Cithrah event. ct31-001tc

Carrickfergus could be the first town in Northern Ireland to have a facility catering for male victims of domestic violence.

Councillor Jim Brown revealed the aim at the October meeting of Mid and East Antrim Council’s Policy and Resources committee.

During the session, it also emerged MEA is seeking to become the first local government area in the province to achieve ‘Safe Borough’ status on domestic violence.

Mr Brown works with the Cithrah Foundation in West Street, which provides support services to individuals who are victims of domestic abuse.

“We are in the process of trying to provide accommodation for males in the province and in Carrick which would be the first place in Northern Ireland to have such a facility,” he said.

“I want to highlight that domestic violence is not just man on woman but it can be woman on man. The reality is that domestic violence works across the sexes and is not just confined to the female.

“The great difficulty in Northern Ireland is that men are reluctant to admit they are victims of domestic violence.

“We should encourage the charter and anyone who comes forward honestly can know that they will be dealt with sympathetically.”

Councillors voted that officers should work with domestic violence groups ONUS and Women’s Aid to develop an action plan to enable Larne to achieve Safe Town status, which was held by Ballymena and Carrickfergus legacy councils.

A Safe Town is defined as “a place where victims of domestic abuse know they can ask for help and receive support and where perpetrators of abuse know they will be held accountable for their actions”.

As part of the initiative, MEA is also working towards achieving the gold standard in the Workplace Charter on Domestic Violence to support employees who are victims of abuse, for which the Ballymena and Carrick areas already hold gold awards.

A council report stated: “As an organisation we are committed to ensuring the health, safety and well-being of all of our employees. Participation in the Workplace Charter on Domestic Violence and support for the achievement of Safe Town within all locations will provide very tangible evidence that this council will be a place where victims can access information and help.”

As part of the Workplace Charter on Domestic Violence, a network of “trusted colleagues” is created to offer peer support and to signpost staff to other services where necessary.

The council’s director of Organisation Development and Community Planning Karen Hargan commented: “We would be the first borough to achieve ‘Safe Borough’ status, there isn’t even an award for it yet.”

DUP Cllr Lynn McClurg said she believed there should be “equality” in dealing with domestic violence throughout the borough, and supported the roll-out of Safe Town status to Larne.

SDLP Cllr Declan O’Loan added that he “strongly supported” the proposals.

“It’s only right that this council should exercise a leadership role on domestic violence,” he stated.

Councillors unanimously agreed to pass the proposals.