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.
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