Today, Thursday 12th February 2015, Women’s Aid, the national charity supporting women experiencing domestic abuse, launches its 2in2u National Public Awareness Campaign on dating abuse with the support of the Irish Girl Guides. The campaign, launched to coincide with Valentine’s Day, is aimed at young women, aged 18-25 years old, and highlights abusive and controlling behaviour in relationships. A key part of the campaign is to encourage young women to know the difference between safe and sinister behaviour in dating relationships. The campaign also helps young women to spot the danger signs of dating abuse and provides useful information to combat online stalking and abuse.
As part of this year’s campaign, Women’s Aid is re-launching the www.2in2u.ie which is now mobile and tablet friendly and has new content on dating abuse, protecting yourself online as well as a relationship health check quiz. Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid says, “The 2in2u campaign is encouraging young women to know the difference between safe and sinister behaviour in intimate relationships. The 2in2u Relationship Health Check explores subtler forms of control, which can be warning signs of further abuse.”
Ms Martin continues, “Dating abuse is a significant issue for our frontline support services. 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. We know that 1 in 5 women in Ireland experience abuse in relationships and in a national survey on domestic abuse in Ireland, almost 60% of those who had experienced severe abuse in intimate relationships first experienced it when they were under the age of 25. A stark reminder of this risk is that 1 in every 2 women, aged between 18-25, killed in Ireland since 1996 were murdered by their boyfriends or exes.”
The campaign is being supported by Irish Girl Guides. Helen Concannon, Irish Girl Guides Chief Commissioner, says, “As an organisation that has 12,000 female members in Ireland, we are committed to raising awareness on this important issue and to encouraging girls and women who find themselves in unhealthy relationships to seek help. Our wide and varied programme encourages girls and women to develop their confidence and self-esteem and to speak out against, and challenge, anything that they feel is wrong.” Jenna Goodwin, a 25-year-old Guide leader from Lucan, Co Dublin, says, “It is vital that any girl or woman who is experiencing abusive behaviour, whether that be physical violence or controlling behaviour, reaches out for support and talks to someone. There is help available day or night by visiting www.2in2u.ie or ringing the Women’s Aid Helpline.”
A recent EU wide study on violence against women showed that 12% of Irish women and girls over the age of 15 had experienced stalking with 50% being stalked, physically and online, by a partner or ex. Women’s Aid is very concerned for young women facing the threat of internet shaming to control them, and the use of the internet to stalk them. More and more, Women's Aid is hearing from women using its services about various forms of digitally assisted stalking where technology is being used by abusive boyfriends and ex-boyfriends to monitor and control women, particularly younger women. Ms Martin says, “Young 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. Women are also disclosing 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."
Ms Martin continues, “Women’s Aid has been contacted by women whose online use was being tracked and scrutinised and whose boyfriends demanded access to their private email and social networking accounts. We also hear from women whose boyfriends and ex-boyfriends had placed lies and false rumours about them on internet sites. Women’s Aid also hears from women who had been photographed and filmed without their consent, sometimes having sex, and having the images uploaded to the internet. Women have said they feel like they are constantly being watched and that their privacy is completely invaded and controlled.”
Better legal protection is needed in order to facilitate access to justice and safety for women being stalked online and for those women abused in dating relationships. Ms. Martin explains, “Abusers use multiple methods to stalk and monitor women, often escalating after the relationship ends, 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 boyfriends 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 concludes, “To fully protect young women from dating abuse, Women’s Aid urges the Government to recognise that abuse can feature within all intimate relationships, and make safety orders available to women who have never lived with their boyfriends. Until these changes are made, young women in dating relationships remain at risk.”
For more information contact Christina Sherlock or Aoife MacMahon on 01-678 8858 or on 087-9192457.