1782 Judge Buller held that assaults on wives were legal
provided that the husband used a stick no thicker than his
thumb. Today in Northern Ireland, wife assault is no longer
legally permitted its recognition as a criminal offence appears
to have had little impact on the widespread practice and extent
of the problem which affects hundreds of women and children
throughout Northern Ireland.
On average, one woman suffers a serious assault every day
in Northern Ireland. The
fact that large numbers of women and children suffer persistent
physical, emotional or sexual abuse within the family has been
largely ignored. Indeed,
domestic violence is only beginning to be a matter for public
and government concern and part of the 'public agenda'.
Since 1975 Women's Aid in Northern Ireland has been the
primary agency working in this field providing a specialised
service of support and protection to women and children at risk
from violence within the home.
the end of the 19th century, the law supported the right of men
to control wives by force.
When the law intervened it was to restrain violence but
not to prevent it.
1840's a judge affirmed the husband's right to kidnap his wife,
beat her and imprison her in the matrimonial home.
the Matrimonial Causes Act was passed which gave women and
children some measure of protection under the law.
However the older laws survived in Northern Ireland until
1979. For its first
four years Women's Aid could have been prosecuted for harbouring
a wife against her husband’s wishes.
unsurprising then that some men believe that they have a right
to control the behaviour of their wives and partners and even
use violence as a means of exercising control.