Increase in numbers of women being abused, controlled and stalked through technology

23 Jun 2010

  • Announcement of Women's Aid 2009 Statistics
  • 14,613 Incidents of Domestic Abuse Disclosed to Women's Aid Helpline in 2009
  • 10,076 calls to the Women's Aid Helpline answered in 2009.

Women's Aid today (Wednesday, 23rd June 2010) announced details of calls to its Domestic Violence National Freephone Helpline and its Support Services in 2009. Callers to the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline disclosed over 14,613 incidents of physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse in 2009. Women's Aid has noted an increase in disclosures of women being abused, controlled and stalked through technology. Many callers disclosed that their current or former boyfriends, husbands and partners were using many forms of technology - old and new - to control, coerce, and intimidate them. This included a variety of telephone, surveillance, and computer technologies. Women disclosed that their home and mobile phone calls were monitored, as well as all of their texts. Some spoke of how their phone conversations were being recorded. Others found cameras secretly installed to monitor their every movement at home.

Speaking at the announcement of the figures, Margaret Martin, Director of Women's Aid, said that, "Domestic violence is a huge problem within Irish society. This year we are particularly concerned about the growing trend of women being monitored and harassed through technology. In 2009 we heard from women whose online use was being tracked and scrutinised and whose partners demanded access to their private email and social networking accounts. We also heard from women whose partners and ex-partners had placed lies about them on internet sites. We also heard from women who had been photographed and filmed without their consent, sometimes having sex, and having the images uploaded to the internet."

She continued, "The use of technology in domestic violence situations is now a key part of the wider pattern of emotional abuse. Women have told us they feel like they are constantly being watched and that their privacy is completely invaded and controlled. Quite often it prevents women from seeking help as they fear their partner will see that they have rung a helpline, looked at a domestic violence website or spoken of the abuse to their friends, family or colleagues in an email or text."

Ms Martin added, "We also know that leaving the relationship does not always end abuse with almost a fifth of women disclosing being abused by their former boyfriends, husbands and partners to the Women's Aid Helpline in 2009. For many, technology played a part in the stalking and harassment they experienced. This included women being bombarded with texts and calls often telling them in explicit detail how they will be attacked or even killed. Younger women reported that their current or former boyfriends were stalking them on social networking sites.

However, Ms Martin stressed, "While technology can be used as a tool to control and abuse women, it can also be their lifeline. 89% of calls to our Helpline in 2009 were made from a mobile phone and our website received over 39,000 visits. That is why we are also delighted to launch our brand new website along with this report. The new website, made possible by the kind support of the "Avon Speak Out against Domestic Violence" programme, is a very informative, modern and user friendly resource for women experiencing domestic violence and their family and friends. The site also promotes and encourages online safety for women. We hope that for the many women who access our website for support and information it continues to be a lifeline, online."

The 2009 Helpline figures also indicate that some trends remain alarmingly consistent year to year. Women's Aid is deeply concerned about the abuse of women during their pregnancy and in the post natal period. Ms Martin said that, "Pregnancy does not offer protection from domestic violence. In fact, international research shows that 25% of women who experience domestic violence are physically assaulted for the first time in pregnancy. In 2009, we heard from women who were beaten and raped while they are pregnant, often resulting in miscarriage. We hear from women who are forbidden to breastfeed their child, who are raped in the weeks following child birth and women who are beaten while holding their baby."
Women's Aid said it noted a 16% increase in first time callers to its Helpline in 2009 (61% in 2009). Ms Martin concluded, "We know that many women who call us have often been too afraid or ashamed to speak to anyone about the abuse, even close family and friends. That's why picking up the phone is such a positive and important step for women living with abuse. For many of our callers, the first phone call to Women's Aid is where they begin to make sense of what is happening to them. Women's Aid is dedicated to answering as many calls from women experiencing domestic violence as we can."

The Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline
is open from 10am - 10pm, 7 days a week
1800 341 900


For more information contact Christina Sherlock or Laura Shehan at 01-8684721 or 087-9192457.


Trends and Further Information

  • Women's Aid is a leading national organisation, which provides support and information to women experiencing domestic violence. Women's Aid operates a National Freephone Helpline Service and a Dublin based One to One Support Service and Court Accompaniment Service. Women's Aid also refers to local refuges and support services around the country.
  • The Women's Aid Helpline responded to 10,076 calls in 2009. There were 452 one to one support visits and 134 court accompaniments.
  • There were 14,613 incidents of domestic violence disclosed in 2009. There were 8,629 incidents of emotional abuse disclosed, 3,479 incidents of physical abuse, and 1,679 incidents of financial abuse. 826 incidents of sexual abuse, which is traditionally not disclosed by women experiencing domestic violence, were recorded, with 335 rapes within relationships being reported to the service.
  • Emotional Abuse included: threats by the abuser to kill women, the children, members of women's family, or himself, including details of how and when he will do it; women's property being destroyed including their cars, furniture, clothes, and home; women being referred to using derogatory language including calling women 'it', 'bitch'; women being trapped as the abuser takes their car keys, empties the petrol from their cars, and steals or smashes their phones so they cannot seek assistance.
  • Physical Abuse included: women being punched and slapped; women being beaten with sticks, golf clubs, hurley sticks, hammers and belts; women being stabbed with knives or broken glass; women being gagged to stop the screams during physical assaults; women being spat and urinated on; women being bitten severely, being pulled by the hair.
  • Sexual Abuse disclosures included: women being repeatedly raped and beaten; women being forcibly stripped and raped; women being told that it is their duty to have sex with the abuser; women being raped in front of the children; women being raped when particularly physically vulnerable, e.g., directly following childbirth; sexual degradation of women including the enforced use of graphic and hardcore pornography.
  • Financial Abuse incidents: taking all of the woman's bank cards and emptying joint accounts; non-payment or erratic payment of child maintenance; women's signatures being forged on cheques; withholding money because women do not want to have sex, denying women money for food for themselves and the children and money to pay household bills. Using the recession to justify the abuse.
  • Women disclosed that 75% of abusers were male partners (This breaks down as - 44% husband, 7% ex-husband, 12% partner, 12% ex-partner).
  • There were 1,814 specific disclosures of child abuse to the Helpline in 2009. This abuse included verbal abuse of children including name calling, constant shouting into children's faces, holding children by the neck against the wall and threatened and actual physical abuse including beatings, attempted stabbings and children being thrown against the room. Abuse of both the mother and children during access arrangements continued to be a feature of domestic violence in 2009.
  • 39% came from the Greater Dublin area while 33% of calls came from outside Dublin. 28% of callers did not disclose a location.
  • 97% of callers were female.
  • 310 callers to the Helpline were identified as minority callers, 81% of whom were migrant women.