Media Release: “It’s not revenge. It’s not porn. It is abuse” - Women’s Aid Launches 2in2u Dating Abuse Valentine’s Campaign

9 Feb 2016

  • 2in2u National Public Awareness campaign highlights the darker side of intimate relationships ahead of St. Valentine’s Day, supported by Vogue Williams.
  • Dating abuse is a significant issue for young women contacting Women’s Aid including digital abuse and ‘revenge porn’.
  • Women’s Aid’s dedicated website for young women www.2in2u.ie is as a vital resource on dating abuse and was visited over 17,000 times in 2015.
  • Women’s Aid calls for better legal protection for young women as a matter of urgency.

Today, Tuesday 9th February 2016, Women’s Aid, the national charity supporting women experiencing domestic abuse, launches its 2in2u National Public Awareness Campaign on dating abuse. The campaign, launched in the build up to St. Valentine’s Day, is aimed at young women, aged 18-25 years old, and highlights abusive and controlling behaviour in relationships. The campaign also helps young women to spot the danger signs of dating abuse and provides information to combat online stalking and digital abuse. The campaign is supported by Vogue Williams, Irish model, television presenter and columnist.

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. We know the campaign works. Last year, we had over 17,000 visits to the 2in2u.ie website with the majority of visitors taking the Relationship Health Check.”

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 supported by Vogue Williams, Irish model, presenter and columnist. Ms. Williams says: “The Women’s Aid 2in2u campaign is a vital one for young women being abused by their boyfriends, including emotional abuse. A young woman told me recently that ‘their voice becomes your voice’. That really got to me. Dating abuse is about control and stealing someone’s identity so they have nothing left to themselves. To anyone in a similar situation, you are not alone. Women’s Aid can help.”

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 digital abuse and stalking where technology is being used by abusive boyfriends and ex-boyfriends to monitor and control women, particularly younger women.

Ms. Martin explains: “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, false rumours and bogus escort ads 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 or being used to blackmail them.”

These incidents, commonly known as ‘revenge porn’ is a growing problem for young Irish women. Ms. Martin stresses: “It’s not revenge, it’s not porn. It is abuse and this type of abuse is one of the deepest betrayals of trust by a boyfriend or ex. Recent events in a large Dublin 3rd level institution highlights that this type of behaviour is something that young women are facing. What we are hearing is only the tip of a very large iceberg. Women have said they feel that their privacy is completely invaded and controlled. Women experience anxiety and feel vulnerable and fearful. They also have difficulty in concentrating and sleeping. Women have to change their contact numbers and email addresses, close down social media accounts and in some cases, move out of their homes. Women have to try to repair damage done to their reputation with their family, friends, at college, at work and with their online communities.”

Women’s Aid also believes that our current laws are simply unfit to meet the 21st century challenges of digital abuse and domestic violence. In its 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. Ms. Martin says: “Women’s Aid is calling on whoever forms the next Government to enact new, all-encompassing legislation to better protect women from digital abuse and stalking and for a better understanding of the harmful and insidious nature of digital abuse. 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: “Young women who have never cohabited with their boyfriends fall outside the remit of the Domestic Violence Act. To fully protect young women from dating abuse, we need 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 outside the law.”

Ends.

For more information contact Christina Sherlock on 01 678 8858 or on 087 9192457.

  • The 2in2u campaign launches today, Tuesday 9th February and runs for 3 weeks including social media advertising, poster advertising and a national mail out of dating abuse awareness materials including 3rdlevel colleges.
  • Launch day photographs have been sent to photodesks and are available from Paul Sharp on 086 6689087 or Paul@sharppix.ie.
  • Spokeswomen available and case studies available here.
  • Young women affected by dating abuse can call the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline on 1800 341 900 (extended to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in January 2016) or log on to www.2in2u.ie.
  • Women’s Aid appealed for donation from the public. 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) or you can donate online www.womensaid.ie/donate.