Technology Increasing Factor in Abuse of Women, Especially Young Women

15 Jun 2011

  • 13,575 Disclosures of abuse to the National Freephone Helpline
  • 48,000 visits to website - an increase of 52% since launch of new website
  • Announcement of Women's Aid 2010 Statistics

Women's Aid today (Wednesday, 15th of June) announced details of calls to its Domestic Violence National Free phone Helpline and its Support Services in 2010. The organisation revealed how disclosures to its Helpline continue to show that various forms of technology were being used by abusive partners to monitor and control women, particularly younger women. Women have disclosed abuse such as their mobile phone calls and texts being monitored and social media and technology being used to stalk and control them.

Speaking at the launch, Director Margaret Martin said that "There is a common misconception that violence and abuse only occurs in older and more established relationships, where women are married or living with, and/or have children with their abusive partner. Our experience and national and international research shows that young women are also at risk from violence and abuse from their boyfriends. In a national survey on domestic violence, almost 60% of those who had experienced severe abuse in intimate relationships first experienced it when they were under the age of 25. More chilling data from resolved homicide cases show that of the 39 women aged between 18 and 25 years who were killed since 1996, 53% were murdered by a boyfriend or former boyfriend."

The figures reflect a recent statement from Keir Starmer the DPP in the UK which said that young women aged between 16 and 19 in the UK are at the highest risk of sexual assault, stalking and domestic abuse, creating a "risk of a whole new generation of domestic violence."

Margaret Martin revealed the sad reality behind the 10,055 calls, saying that having worked in this area for 35 years, Women's Aid is clear that domestic violence can happen to anyone: your sister, your mother, your friends, your colleagues or yourself. "We know that one in five Irish women who have ever been in a relationship experience physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse. In 2010, we responded to over 10,000 calls on our Helpline. We heard from thousands of women living with abuse and fear. Fear of being choked or strangled, fear of the next beating or cutting remark that is designed to erode their confidence and put them down. Women being gagged to silence their screams. Women whose abusive partners repeatedly threaten to kill them, their children and themselves. Jeering the women and telling them not to bother telling anyone - that no one will believe them. All too often, these women feel completely isolated and alone, unaware that there is help available. We know that about one third of women never tell anyone about the abuse they suffer. Instead, these women try to survive and protect themselves and their children on their own."

Ms Martin added that many women continue to literally 'live outside the law' by being ineligible for Domestic Violence Orders. During 2010, 13% of callers disclosed abuse by current non-married partners. Many of these women will find themselves unable to access Domestic Violence Orders, for example, if they never lived with their partner, even if they have a child in common. In addition, 10% of callers experienced abuse from a former non-married partner. Again, this is a group of women whose safety needs are not being met as they are often ineligible to apply for protection under the Domestic Violence Act 1996.

She continued "Leaving a relationship does not always end abuse. Almost a fifth of women continued to be abused, stalked and harassed by former partners. These women disclosed how they are bombarded with texts and calls often telling them, in explicit detail, how they will be attacked or even killed. Some women disclosed that their current or ex-boyfriends were stalking them on social networking sites."

Despite the misery behind each of each of these calls, Ms Martin stressed that she wanted to tell women out there that "There is help available and over the past 35 years, countless women have gone on to lead safe and fulfilling lives with the
support of Women's Aid. I want to say especially to younger women that we often hear from older women living with domestic violence that the signs that her partner was possessive and controlling were there from the start. But to her and those around her, it appeared like he was just too into her. We want to say trust your instincts and get help. A starting point is to look at the Women's Aid 2in2u National Public Awareness Campaign, a groundbreaking campaign highlighting the issue of violence and abuse against young women in dating relationships that was run earlier this year. This campaign was made possible by funding through Cosc.

Women's Aid relies very much on donations from the public. Anyone who wishes to donate to their service can do so online at www.womansaid.ie or by sending donations directs to Women's Aid, Everton House, 47 Old Cabra Road, Dublin 7 (Ends).

For more information contact:
Laura Shehan at 01-8684721 or 087-9192457
Niamh O'Carroll on 087 628 6171

Launch details: The Alexander Hotel, Merrion Square, Dublin at 11am on Wednesday 15th of June 2011.

A copy of the full report and a number of new case studies will be available online from 11am on Wednesday the 15th

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 10,055 calls in 2010. There were 430 one to one support visits and 164 court accompaniments. There were 8351 incidents of emotional abuse disclosed and 3031 incidents of physical abuse.
  • 588 incidents of sexual abuse were recorded, which is traditionally not disclosed by women experiencing domestic violence, with 213 rapes within relationships being reported to the service.
  • The figures for 2010 indicate that 57% of calls were by first time users of the service.
  • Emotional Abuse: included women being stalked and constantly monitored both while in the relationship and after they leave; women being harassed continuously by phone, text messages, and through social networks; women's access to internet either curtailed or monitored; women threatened with weapons, threats by the abuser to kill the woman, the children or other family members; women threatened that their children will be abducted and taken overseas and women's and children's pets being intentionally harmed in front of them.
  • Physical Abuse: Women being beaten, slapped and kicked to the point of bleeding and injury; women being gagged to stop screams during physical assaults; women being choked, strangled and stabbed; women being spat on, having their hair pulled and scalded; women being thrown out of the house or locked in for long periods and pregnant women being beaten to the point of miscarriage.
  • Sexual Abuse: Women being raped, often repeatedly, by partners and ex-partners; women being raped in front of the children; women being beaten and raped while pregnant or soon after delivery or miscarriage and women being coerced into prostitution.
  • Financial Abuse: Women's belongings being sold without their consent; women not being given money to buy essentials for themselves and the children, including food and medication; women forced to pay abusers' debt; abuser forcing women to put her benefits in his name and not giving her any money; women having to account for every cent they spend and abuser jeopardising women's employment.
  • Women disclosed that 74% of abusers were male partners (This breaks down as - 44% husband, 7% ex-husband, 13% partner, 10% ex-partner).
  • In 2010, there were 1,658 specific incidents of child abuse disclosed by callers to the Helpline. These are incidents where the perpetrator was directly abusing the
  • children of the relationship, as well as the mother. The kinds of abusive tactics used directly against children living in domestic violence situations disclosed to the National Freephone Helpline in 2010 include: the abuser smacking and hitting children including with household items; the abuser physically and sexually abusing children and abusers constantly shouting in children's faces.
  • In addition to the 1,658 specific incidents of child abuse reported in 2010, in another 2,946 calls it was directly disclosed that children were living in situations where their mother was experiencing domestic violence. In the majority of these incidents, it is likely that children will have witnessed or heard the abuse of their mother. as a form of emotional abuse of children
  • 39% came from the Greater Dublin area while 28% of calls came from outside Dublin. 33% of callers did not disclose a location.
  • 97% of callers were female.
  • 297 callers to the Helpline were identified as minority callers, 81% of whom were migrant women.

For further information check out the full report here

And access related case studies here