Today, Monday 13th February 2012, Women's Aid will launch the second year of a national public awareness campaign targeting young women experiencing abuse and violence in dating relationships. The 2in2u campaign highlights unhealthy and abusive behaviours in a relationship in the hope that young women, if informed, might get help before the relationship becomes more established, and it has become harder to leave or get support. It also encourages young women to listen to their instincts with its strap line - 'If it feels wrong, it probably is.'
Margaret Martin, Director of Women's Aid, said that, "The 2in2u campaign highlights the way the controlling boyfriend's attention can often be overwhelming at the early stages of the relationship, and encapsulates how it feels to be a young woman experiencing abuse. Again and again, we hear from 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 so into her. Several calls to the Helpline during the 2in2u campaign last year began with - `If only I had heard that message when I started going out with him'."
Ms Martin continued: "As well as experiencing a rise in calls from young women last year, during the 2011 campaign Women's Aid experienced an increase in calls from mothers and in some case fathers of young women, where the parents were uncomfortable about the relationship and wanted to know how best to support their daughter. In some instances this led to the young women making contact themselves. This is something that we will continue to monitor."
She added: "There is a myth in society that abuse only occurs in older and more established relationships. But this is not the case. In many 'going out' or 'dating' relationships, abuse is already a feature but is often not recognised as such by the young woman herself, or her friends. Our experience and national and international research show that young women are at risk from violence and abuse from their boyfriends. Currently there is no protection for young women in these situations under the Domestic Violence Act. The government has included in its Programme for Government a welcome commitment to reform domestic violence legislation and we are hopeful that this will include protection for people in dating relationships."
The "2in2u" campaign is backed by Irish actress Charlene McKenna who is currently starring in the RTE Drama, 'Raw'. Speaking in support of the campaign, Charlene said: "I think it's really important to bring awareness of dating abuse to young women as I know that it's not something you associate with our age group and yet it is as prevalent with us as it is with older people. The Women's Aid Helpline is a brilliant resource if you feel that something might not be right in your relationship. Helpline workers will listen to you and can help you make sense of your situation."
For many young women dating abuse means that their boyfriend: controls what she wears and who she sees, isolates her from family and friends, constantly bombards her with texts and uses technology to abuse, control and stalk her. He may physically attack her including hitting, punching, spitting and throwing her against walls. He may threaten to kill her or himself, force her to do sexual things against her will. She is living in constant fear of his moods and temper.
Ms Martin concluded: "Dating abuse can happen to any young woman and it is important to start talking about what are healthy and unhealthy behaviours in relationships. The website, www.2in2u.ie, includes a 'relationship health check'
quiz. This year the website is available for access from mobile phones. We hope that young women who are anxious or worried about any aspect of their relationship will contact the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 or talk to someone they trust."
For more information: contact Laura on 087-9192457 or 01-8684721 or Niamh O'Carroll on 087 628 6171.
Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900
Open 10am to 10pm, 7 days a week.