Women’s Aid releases a new report today called ‘One in Five: Young Women Experience Intimate Relationship Abuse in Ireland’. The report details findings from new research carried out by Women’s Aid and Red C Research. Through focus groups and an online survey conducted with 500 young women and men, we found that 1 in 5 young women aged 18 to 25 have experienced intimate relationship abuse.
We found that although sexual and physical abuse in intimate relationships are the most common forms of abuse that are publically discussed, they are not the most common forms of abuse experienced by young women. Emotional abuse far more prevalent within this age group however, as abuse that is not physical can be more difficult to identify it is not widely discussed in the media and can be difficult to reach out and seek assistance for.
In fact, we found that young women felt that emotional abuse could be defined as the starting point or undercurrent of all other abuse. They also found emotional abuse to be dangerous because it can be easy to perpetrate, hide and in many ways excuse. One young woman who had personal experience of intimate relationship abuse notes:
‘It can very subtle, and if it’s not identified earlier it can cause problems down the line.’
Other prevalent forms of intimate relationship abuse against young women include sexual coercion, sexual assault, threats of physical abuse, physical abuse and stalking and harassment. The impacts for young women who have experienced intimate relationship abuse are severe and varied with a large majority experiencing low self-esteem and self-worth, suffering from anxiety or depression and many others experienced a withdrawal from friends and family. Other less prevalent but serious impacts include hospitalisation due to injuries as a result of abuse and attempted suicide.
The main barrier to seeking assistance and support for young women who had experienced intimate relationship abuse is fear followed by shame and embarrassment. However, these barriers are more likely to be present after the person has recognised the abusive situation that they are in as a lack of recognition is a key barrier to seeking assistance and support.
Women’s Aid are working to raise awareness of intimate relationship abuse and the supports that are available through the Too Into You campaign https://www.toointoyou.ie/. You can read the full report here.