Today (Thursday, 13th February 2014), Women’s Aid launches its 2in2u national public awareness campaign highlighting abusive and controlling behaviour in dating relationships.
Research has shown that while young women can be at even higher risk of abuse in a relationship than their older counterparts, there is low recognition of controlling and coercive relationship behaviour among young women. A stark reminder of this risk is that over half of 18-25 year old women killed in Ireland since 1996 were murdered by their partners or exes.
Women’s Aid Director Margaret Martin said: “We’re encouraging young women to take the 2in2u Relationship Health Check and to trust their gut instincts with the campaign tagline, ‘If it feels wrong, it probably is.’ The Relationship Health Check explores subtler forms of control, which can be warning signs of further abuse, and provides examples of healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviours, to start conversations about what is acceptable in a relationship. We want women to know that they can speak to someone in confidence on our National Freephone Helpline (1800 341 900) to help make sense of what’s going on in their relationship.”
According to Ms. Martin, education is crucial to prevent the next generation of abuse. Women’s Aid welcomes the development by the Department of Education & Skills of new personal safety lesson plans for Junior Cycle students, an initiative which we hope will provide a safe space for young people to explore these issues.
During the 2in2u campaign, Women’s Aid will raise the need for legal reform to address the dangerous trend of digitally assisted stalking. Ms. Martin said: “We are very concerned for young women facing the threat of internet shaming to control them, and the use of the internet to stalk them. Women tell us how they are harassed continuously by phone, text message, and social network, have internet access curtailed or monitored, have personal details or lies spread about them, and are impersonated by their abuser online.”
Women’s Aid welcomes the upcoming Law Reform Commission examination of these and other forms of cyber-bullying, which are not dealt with in current law, and urges the commission to maintain a particular focus on cyber-stalking in intimate relationships. However, according to Ms. Martin, the Commission’s recent conclusion that the current law of harassment is sufficient to deal with stalking in domestic violence cases would leave women and children vulnerable.
Ms. Martin explained: “Abusers use multiple methods to stalk and monitor women, often escalating after separation, when it can be more difficult to access current legal protection. In our experience, the definition of harassment in law is complex and hard to prove, and rarely used to protect women who are stalked by their partners or exes. Women’s Aid recommends that a specific stalking offence be introduced in Irish law, with a comprehensive but not exhaustive definition, including new forms of cyber-stalking, and that stalking be recognised as grounds for a safety order.”
Ms. Martin continued: “To fully protect young women from dating abuse, Women’s Aid urges the Government to recognise that abuse within relationships can feature even when relationships aren’t ‘domestic’, and make safety orders available to women who have never lived with their partners, as part of the current review of domestic violence legislation. Until these changes are made, young women in dating relationships remain outside of the law.”
Contact Laura Shehan on 01 678 8858 or 087 9192457 for more information.
Notes to editors/producers