Law Leaves Women in Dating Relationships at Risk from Abusive Partners

25 Nov 2010

  • Women's Aid calls for legal protection for women not covered by current domestic violence legislation
  • Women's Aid Leads a Nationwide Solidarity Balloon Action to Highlight the Numbers of Women Abused in Ireland by Intimate Partners on the UN Day against Violence against Women

Today, Thursday 25th November at 11am, Women's Aid will lead a nationwide action in solidarity with the one in five women experiencing domestic violence in Ireland. The action is part of the Women's Aid National Balloon Action and will see thousands of balloons released across the country to mark the UN Day Opposing Violence against Women.

The organisation is also calling for changes in domestic violence legislation to ensure that all women being abused, can access protection. Speaking at the event, Margaret Martin, Director of Women's Aid, highlighted the vulnerability of those women who have never lived with their boyfriend, and therefore do not meet the strict cohabitation requirements under the Domestic Violence Act.

Ms Martin explained, "While many women do meet the strict criteria for domestic violence orders, some women do not. Women who are in dating relationships are left vulnerable to abuse. For example, a young woman in college who is being stalked and abused by her ex-boyfriend months after she has ended the relationship cannot go to court to ask for protection. This is a very serious gap in legislation, and one that many people are entirely unaware of."

As part of the public action outside Dáil Éireann, Women's Aid will use a striking visual installation to highlight the underside of intimate relationships for thousands of women in Ireland. Five women, dressed in black and white will hold a bouquet of five large helium filled balloons. Four balloons will be black and one white. Hundreds of balloons will also be released.

Margaret Martin, Director of Women's Aid, said, "On the UN Day Opposing Violence against Women (25th November), we are standing in solidarity with abused women across Ireland and with other organisations who are providing vital support and care to victims of domestic violence. We are also highlighting the fact that one in every five women living in Ireland today are living in fear of those closest to them - their boyfriends, husbands and partners. Domestic violence can happen to any woman and in any home."

Ms Martin stressed, "Everyone has the right to safety and freedom from violence. Domestic violence legislation needs to change to reflect the reality of 21st century Irish life and we call for the removal of cohabitation requirements. This will ensure that women in dating relationships will be fully protected. Until this happens, women in dating relationships experiencing abuse will continue to live in fear and the law is powerless to protect them."

One woman who called the Women's Aid helpline revealed that she is living in fear of her ex-boyfriend months after she ended the abusive relationship. According to Karen*: "He was totally controlling and possessive. I was very frightened of him. After I told him it was over it just got worse - constant texting, waiting for me after work, following me everywhere I went. He was threatening me and was physically violent. People were telling me to go to court and get a safety order to protect myself. But I found out very quickly that I was not eligible because I had not lived with or been married to Jim. I was so shocked and angry, I felt really let down. I don't feel safe anywhere anymore. If I had gotten a safety order at the beginning then Jim would have known that what he was doing to me would have serious consequences for him - that the courts would deal with him. But now it seems that it is just me, on my own, and that is just the way Jim wants it. I don't have any peace."

Ms Martin concluded: "To protect Karen, and the many young women like her, who are experiencing serious abuse especially in the wake of a break up, it is vital that we amend the Domestic Violence Act to protect all those being abused."

Today is the first day of the Women's Aid One in Five Women 16 Days of Action campaign (25th November to 10th December). Women's Aid and groups nationwide are highlighting violence against women during the campaign.


For more information contact Christina or Laura on 087-9192457 or 01-8684721.

Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900
Open 10am to 10pm, 7 Days.

Notes to editors/producers:

  • *Karen's story is based on real accounts as told to Women's Aid. Specific details and circumstances have been changed in the interest of protecting identity and to preserve the confidential nature of Women's Aid Services. We have a number of other case studies available for media purposes.
  • 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.
  • Thursday 25th November, UN Day Opposing Violence against Women, is the first day of the International 16 Days of Action Opposing Violence against Women campaign, which ends of 10th December (International Human Rights Day). The campaign is now in its 20th year.
  • The 16 Days Campaign is endorsed by Concern, World Vision Ireland, actress Victoria Smurfit, the Avon Speak Out against Domestic Violence Programme, Sonya Lennon, Clare Kambamettu, Rose of Tralee, Dr. Sam Coulter-Smith, Master of the Rotunda Hospital, Tracey Piggot, RTE, Jenny Kelly of Today FM, and Senator Ivana Bacik, An Taoiseach Brian Cowen TD, and Trocaire.
  • Research by Women's Aid shows that 1 in 5 women in Ireland are affected by domestic violence.
  • It is estimated that 213,000 Irish women suffer severe abuse.
  • 166 women have been murdered in Ireland since 1996. In 51% of the resolved cases, the woman was murdered by their partner or ex-partner
  • 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.
  • The Women's Aid National Balloon Action is part of the 'One in Five Women' National Campaign organised by Women's Aid. You can also participate in the online balloon release. For more information on the campaign go to