Larne to become “safe town” to tackle domestic violence

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Larne could become a “safe town” for domestic violence victims under plans to make Mid and East Antrim the Province’s first “safe borough.”

During a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Policy and Resources Committee, councillors voted that officers should work with domestic violence support groups ONUS and Women’s Aid to develop an action plan to enable Larne to achieve safe town status.

The accolade was already held by Ballymena and Carrickfergus legacy councils.

A council report defines a safe town 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 safe borough status, council 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.

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.

During the debate, it emerged that Carrick could be the first town in Northern Ireland to have a facility for male victims of domestic violence.

Cllr Jim Brown, who works with domestic violence support charity The Cithrah foundation, revealed: “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.”

“I want to highlight that domestic violence is not just man on woman but it can be woman on man. 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 unanimously agreed to pass the proposals.