Women's Aid releases new domestic violence figures and calls for an end to victim blaming.

18 Jun 2015

We must stop blaming women and lay responsibility for domestic violence solely where it belongs.

  • Women’s Aid launches its Impact Report 2014 detailing 13,655 contacts made with its National Freephone Helpline and Dublin based One to One Services.  In 2014, the national domestic violence agency noted 16,464 disclosures of domestic violence against women and 5,786 disclosures of child abuse.

  • Women’s Aid calls for an end to victim blaming and demands that society holds domestic violence perpetrators to account as it launches its Impact Report 2014.

  • Women’s Aid also launches its new ‘Women’s Voices’ video which featuring women’s testimonies of abuse.

  • New 20% cut in statutory funding to Women’s Aid threatens to delay extension of vital national Freephone helpline for women affected by domestic abuse.

Today, Thursday 18th June 2015, Women’s Aid, the national domestic violence support service, launches its Impact Report for 2014.  The report announces details of 13,655 contacts made to its National Freephone Helpline and Dublin based one to one support services in 2014 during which 16,464 disclosures of domestic abuse against women were made.  In the same year, the organisation heard 5,786 disclosures of abuse of children.  Women’s Aid reveals how disclosures of abuse made to its frontline staff and volunteers highlight once again the horrific range of violence and abuse being used by abusive men to not only control and hurt women but very often their children too.  The organisation is challenging the victim blaming culture that women are up against and calls for society to lay the blame and responsibility at the feet of the men who choose to abuse women and children.  Women’s Aid also reveals that it is currently coming to terms with an unexpected and significant 20% cut to its statutory funding by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, at a time when it is planning to extend the National Freephone Helpline to a 24/7/365 service from January 2016 in line with recommendations the EU Victims Directive and the Istanbul Convention.  The organisation insists that this unjustified cut is reversed and full funding is restored.

Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid outlines some of the abuse disclosed, “In 2014, women told us that they were kept prisoner in their own homes,  cut with knives, stabbed, spat on, punched, slapped, kicked, held down and choked and beaten with household items with many women disclosing that they were beaten during pregnancy. Women told us that they were constantly verbally abused, belittled, criticised, blamed and stalked and harassed, including online, both during the relationship and after leaving. Women reported that they had been raped, sexually assaulted and given no option but to comply with their abusers sexual demands. Women's freedom and options had been curtailed because of sustained financial abuse including being denied household monies, being forced to take out loans in their names only and having their employment jeopardised. Women’s Aid hears from women who feel trapped, alone, isolated with limited options and whose journey to safety can be long and difficult.”

Ms Martin adds, “We celebrated our 40th anniversary in 2014 and upon reflection, we have come a long way since 1974.  Yet, women experiencing domestic abuse still have to face deeply embedded myths in Irish society.  Common questions like ‘why don’t you just leave?’ are so minimising and damaging.  This victim blaming response feeds into the isolation that women feel and reinforces what their abusers tell them, that it is their fault and, by implication, that they can stop the abuse.  The focus and responsibility for the abuse is unfairly placed on women who are struggling to survive.  Very often the men who abuse women are absent or excused when we talk about addressing domestic violence.”

Ms Martin adds, “The victim blaming culture is woven throughout society including in systems meant to protect women.  Women tell us of inconsistent responses by State institutions and agencies such as the Courts and Gardaí.   These experiences are supported by the 2014 Garda Inspectorate Report into Crime Investigation.  The report, despite highlighting cases of individual good practice, showed up very serious gaps in the official response to domestic abuse cases.  The challenge for society is to treat the crime of domestic abuse as seriously as it deserves and place the responsibility solely at the feet of the perpetrator.”

In 2015, Women’s Aid hopes that its new ground breaking ‘Testimonies’ Project  will help to amplify women’s voices in order to build better awareness and understanding of the complexities of domestic violence.  As part of this project, Women’s Aid launches its new ‘Women’s Voices’ video today.  Aimed at women who are currently in abusive relationships, the video uses the voices of women who have experienced emotional, physical, financial and sexual abuse. Women’s Aid hopes that it will help women recognise abusive behaviour, know that they are not alone and encourage them to reach out for support.

Ms Martin says, “2015 needs to be a turning point for women and children affected by domestic violence in Ireland.  We intend to build on the successes of the last four decades by addressing the existing cracks in the system and societal barriers which continue to put women and children at risk.  We want a sea change in how domestic violence is understood and we must challenge the inequality and sexism that lies at the heart of men’s violence against women.  We need to prevent abuse by equipping young women and men with the skills, tools and understanding to enter into intimate relationships based on respect and equality.  These changes are necessary and Women’s Aid will not stop until we achieve them.”

Women's Aid reveals that it has recently received the shocking news that statutory funding to Women’s Aid will be cut by 20%.  Despite enduring cut after cut since the start of the recession Women’s Aid thought the worst of these had passed.  Ms Martin explains, “Since 2008 we have seen a cut in stutory funding to the tune of €221,000 and now we are facing into an additional 20% cut.  This year we had started to work towards extending our National Freephone Helpline to a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week service from January 2016 in line with recommendations the EU Victims Directive and the Istanbul Convention.  This recent severe cut by Tusla feels like a new recession for our organisation and we are still trying to come to terms with the impact on our work.  These news cuts must be reversed immediately to allow us to continue our vital work.” 

Ms Martin concludes, “Women experiencing domestic violence are in a bleak black place and it is difficult to find a way out. But we know that there is hope and Women’s Aid is here to help.   We regularly hear from women who are now free from abuse, who feel good about themselves and have gotten their lives back.  Nina*, who spoke to us as part of our Testimoniesproject, said it perfectly.  ‘I kept talking to a lady from Women’s Aid who never let go of me.  She always told me things would work out.  And they did.’  Whatever 2015 and beyond brings, the staff, volunteers and Board of Women’s Aid is committed to being there for every woman who needs us, when she needs us.”

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.womensaid.ie/donate or by sending donations direct to Women's Aid, 5 Wilton Place, Dublin 2.  You can also text ACTION to 50300 to donate €4.

100% of your donation goes to Women’s Aid across most network operators. Some operators apply VAT which means a minimum of €3.25 will go to Women’s Aid. Service provider: LIKECHARITY. Helpline: 0766805278.

The Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900, 10am to 10pm, 7 days a week, www.womensaid.ie

Ends.

Media spokeswomen available.

Download Full Impact Report 2014, Executive Summary and Women’s Voices Video.

For more information contact Christina Sherlock, Communications and Campaigns Officer, 01-678 8858 or 087 919 2457.

Launch details: Westin Hotel, Dublin 2, at 11am, Thursday 18th June 2015.  Pictures available from Paul Sharp, Sharppix (paul@sharppix.ie), from 1pm, Thursday 18th June 2015.

Trends and further information

*Name has been changed to protect identity.

  • Women's Aid is the national organisation providing support and information to women experiencing domestic violence through its Direct Services. It runs the only free, national, domestic violence helpline (1800 341 900, 10am to 10pm, 7 days) with specialised trained staff & volunteers, accredited by the Helplines Partnership and with a Telephone Interpretation Service covering 170 languages for callers needing interpreting services as well as a Text Service for Deaf and Hard of Hearing women. Women's Aid also offers a Dublin-based One to One Support Service and Court Accompaniment Service and runs the Dolphin House Support and Referral Service in the Dublin District Family Law Court (in partnership with Dublin 12 Domestic Violence Service and Inchicore Outreach Centre.)
  • The Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline answered 11,167 calls in 2014 (31 calls a day). There were 707 one to one support visits and 191 court accompaniments carried out by its One to One Support Services.  An additional 313 drop-in sessions took place at the Dolphin House Support and Referral Service.  We also provided additional telephone support in our One to one services on 1,277 occasions in 2014.
  • 65% of contacts were first time contacts while 35% of contacts were by repeat users of our services.
  • There were 16,464 disclosures of domestic violence to Women’s Aid Direct Services in 2014 including 10,653 disclosures of emotional abuse, 3,470 disclosures of physical abuse, 595 disclosures of sexual abuse (Including 176 disclosures of rape) and 1,746 disclosures of financial abuse. 
  • Breakdown of domestic violence disclosures to the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline:
  • Emotional Abuse included: being controlled and manipulated, being isolated from family and friends, threats to kill the woman, the children, or the woman’s family, abuser refusing to call the woman by her name, constant name calling and being shouted at. Being accused of being a bad mother and being told that she is going mad. Being blamed for the abuse and being told that it’s her fault.  Being shaken, kicked and woken during the night resulting in sleep deprivation. Being stalked, having to change contact details and being harassed by phone, text and online after the relationship has ended.
  • Physical Abuse included: Being beaten, bitten and spat at, being punched, thrown, slapped and kicked to the point of bleeding and threatened with a knife or gun.  Being beaten while pregnant, being beaten when holding an infant.  Being locked in the house and/or car for hours.  Attempted arson while she and the children are in the house.  Being choked, pulled by the hair, being stabbed and cut with knives and blades.  Being hit with weapons including hammers, axes and everyday household items.
  • Sexual Abuse included: Being drugged and raped while unconscious, being sexually assaulted with weapons, being raped by partner who says that sex is his right, feeling that she cannot say no as it will mean a physical attack. Being forced to carry out humiliating and painful sexual acts.
  • Financial Abuse included: Being denied access to vital medical care and intervention, abuser controlling all family income including woman’s salary and/or welfare payments. Being left without means as the abuser has gambled or spent the household income.  Being left to pay all household expenses including bills, food and clothing for the children.  Abuser withholding maintenance payments.  Being left with debt in her name and being vulnerable to homelessness as the abuser is not paying mortgages and other bills taken out in her name.
  • Women contacting Women’s Aid disclosed that 80% of abusers were male intimate partners. (This breaks down as - 42% husband, 6% ex-husband, 15% partner, 17% ex-partner). 
  • Abuse of children: There were 5,786 disclosures of child abuse to Women’s Aid Services in 2014.  This figure includes 5,453 disclosures of emotional abuse[1] and 248 disclosures where children were physically or sexually abused by the perpetrator of their mother’s abuse. It also includes 72 disclosures of where children were being abused during access visits and 13 disclosures of child abduction in the context of domestic violence.
  • 35% of calls to the National Helpline came from the Greater Dublin area while 26% of calls came from outside Dublin39% of callers did not disclose a location.
  • 97% of callers to the Helpline were female and 3% were male.
  • 323 callers to the Helpline and 32% of women using the Women’s Aid One to One Support Service for the first time in 2014 were migrant women. Migrant women experiencing domestic violence face additional barriers suck as lack of independent residency status or ineligibility for social protection. 
  • Women’s Aid Telephone Interpretation Service facilitated 78 calls using interpreters in 2014.

[1] In 2014, Women’s Aid merged the direct emotional abuse and witnessing abuse category to fall under the one Emotional Abuse column.  This is in line with Children First: National Guidelines on the Protection of Children in Ireland which identifies the exposure to domestic violence as a formof emotional abuse.