Women’s Aid calls for a Yes vote in the forthcoming referendum and supports the Together for Yes Policy on the General Scheme of a Bill to Regulate Termination of Pregnancy.
The experiences of women experiencing domestic and sexual violence must be brought to the fore in the discussion leading up to the referendum on the repeal the 8th Amendment. Women’s Aid has been supporting women for over 40 years and in our experience rape, sexual assault, and sexual coercion are very much a part of the pattern of violent and coercive behaviour used by abusive husbands, partners and boyfriends.
The current barriers to safe and legal abortion in Ireland allow abusive men additional power to deny their partners the ability to make their own reproductive choices.
Since 2002 Women’s Aid has received 2,417 disclosures of rape by current or ex-partners. Last year, weheard 607 disclosures of sexual violence which included 323 reports of rape.
Women calling our 24hr National Freephone Helpline and using our other face to face support services last year told us that they:
Margaret Martin, Director of Women's Aid, Maeve Eogan from the Rotunda SATU, Niamh Ni Dhomhnaill, advocate and Orla O’Connor from Together For Yes at the publication of a position paper by Together for Yes on the General Scheme of a Bill to Regulate Termination of Pregnancy.
The EU FRA research data collected in 2012 in 28 countries highlights the prevalence of violence against women and showed that 14% of women in Europe has experienced physical violence and 6% of women had experienced sexual violence since they were 15 years old.
Out of all the women who have a partner (current or ex), 22% have experienced physical or sexual abuse from their partner since 15 years old. The EU FRA figures for Ireland show that one in seven women have experienced physical violence from a partner in their lifetime.
The impact of domestic violence is very traumatic and affects women’s self-confidence, leaves her livingin fear, suffering panic attacks, having difficulty sleeping, and ending up exhausted and anxious.
Domestic and sexual abuse has consequences on women’s reproductive health including:
The current barriers to safe and legal abortion in Ireland give abusive men additional power to deny women the right to make their own reproductive choices. Domestic abuse, financial control and digital stalking and the Impact of the 8th Amendment.
Our experience also shows that abusive partners exercise control over women’s freedom of movementand her access to financial resources on a daily basis. Something that might not be to the fore of people’s minds when discussing the impact of the 8th Amendment is the very real restrictive ways domestic abusers use to track their partners.
These are particularly significant where the option ofabortion is only available to women with sufficient economic means and the freedom to travel outside Ireland.We hear from women who are being stalked and monitored online whose abusive partners are using a range of digital tools to monitor them, find out their online and bank account passwords and keep track of their whereabouts.
These tactics significantly impact on women’s privacy and their ability to seek help or information, for example, her ability travel outside the jurisdiction or to source abortion pills from outside Ireland are severely hampered. Research by Women’s Aid in the UK that 41% of domestic violence victims werebeing tracked/harassed using electronic devices.
Financial abuse is a very common method that abusers use to control their partners.
Last year we heard 1,443 disclosures of where women were being denied access to the family income, that their ownsalaries/social welfare payments were being stolen or controlled by the abuser. Women disclosed that their abuser made them account for every penny spent and often left them with inadequate funds forthe family’s needs.
Women also disclosed financial abuse continuing after separation including the hiding of family assets and the non-payment of child maintenance. So how can a woman who is being abused in this way find the sufficient economic means and be able to travel abroad to access abortion services, if that is what she decides to do?
Women living in poverty and women living within the direct provision system who are experiencing abuse face layer upon layer of additional barriers in these situations.
The 8th Amendment adds further trauma for women experiencing sexual violence and it is time for it to go. Women’s Aid trusts women and we are steadfast in our view that women should be free to make their own reproductive choices and have access to full reproductive health care at home.
Voting Yes to Repeal the 8th Amendment on 25th May 2018 will impact positively on women affected by rape and domestic violence.
For more on the Together For Yes campaign visit www.togetherforyes.ie