Today, Friday 10th December 2010 (International Human Rights Day), Women's Aid highlighted the levels of domestic violence against pregnant women and announced details of its current awareness raising campaign to tackle the issue. The campaign targets health professionals working in the four Dublin maternity hospitals and pregnant women accessing maternity services and information on pregnancy through using Ireland's leading pregnancy and parenting club, www.eumom.ie. Women's Aid is very concerned at the levels of abuse during pregnancy being disclosed by women ringing its National Freephone Helpline.
Deirdre Campbell, Manager of the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline outlined the extent of the problem, "Women's Aid is deeply concerned about the abuse of women during pregnancy. Research carried out a number of years ago in a Dublin maternity hospital showed that 1 in 8 women had experienced abuse during their pregnancy. While pregnancy is often be the most special time for a woman, this is not the case for women being abused by those closest to them - their boyfriends, husbands and partners. Pregnancy does not offer protection from domestic violence. In fact, international research has shown that 25% of women who experience domestic violence are physically assaulted for the first time during pregnancy."
Ms Campbell continued, "We hear on the Helpline from women who are beaten and raped while they are pregnant, often resulting in miscarriage. This abuse often continues into the period after the baby is born with women disclosing that they are forbidden to breastfeed their child, who are raped following child birth and women who are beaten while holding their new born baby."
One woman who called the Women's Aid helpline revealed she had been beaten so badly while she was pregnant that she was hospitalised. According to Jane*: "One morning when I was just over five months pregnant, Mike woke up and started kissing me, he climbed on top of me and when I asked him to stop, he got really mad. He picked up the phone and started hitting me with it, I tried to get away from him and fell on the floor. He started kicking me in the back, I was so frightened I was trying to hide my stomach, I was so worried about the baby. I had bruises all over my back and was so sore from where he had kicked me. Later that day I started to bleed, Mike took me to the maternity hospital where he told them I had been in a car crash. He cried to all the staff telling them he was so afraid we would lose our baby, he said the crash was his fault and he felt so guilty."
Women's Aid has placed advertisements and promotional items that will reach over 70,000 pregnant women directly. Working in partnership with Eumom.ie, Women's Aid has advertised its National Freephone Helpline in the pregnancy diary given out to over 40,000 women attending ante-natal clinics, maternity hospitals and GPs surgeries all over Ireland. An information card was produced and is now included over 30,000 'Mother to Be' boxes distributed by Eumom nationwide. This was sponsored by Eumom. The organisation has also written a special section on domestic violence for the Eumom website.
In addition to targeting pregnant women directly,Women's Aid has produced awareness packs for Dublin maternity professionals including a new leaflet designed to help those who come into direct contact with women using maternity services to recognise signs of domestic violence. The pack also includes Women's Aid pens and weight conversion charts to promote the National Freephone Helpline.
Ms Campbell explained, "We have started to distribute material to key personnel in the four maternity hospitals. We hope that this helps to raise awareness of the issue affecting women during their pregnancy. This is the latest initiative by Women's Aid to tackle the issue. We have been working in partnership with the Dublin based maternity hospitals for eight years, sharing knowledge on working with women experiencing domestic violence. This work includes awareness raising and in-depth training of staff. The organisation is also a part of a joint working group between key social work and midwifery staff to guide best practice relating to domestic violence in the hospitals."
Ms Campbell concluded, "Domestic violence can happen to any woman and in any home. Pregnancy should be a time where women feel protected and safe but we know that many are vulnerable to abuse and living in fear. This awareness campaign is targeting both health professionals and women directly, so that women experiencing abuse in pregnancy will know that they are not alone and that help is available.
The Domestic Violence and Pregnancy Awareness Campaigns continues through the Women's Aid 16 Days of Action Opposing Violence against Women campaign which runs from 25th November to 10th December 2010.
For more information contact Christina 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: