Today, Wednesday 15th June 2016, Women’s Aid, the national domestic abuse support service, launches its Impact Report for 2015. The report details 12,041 contacts made to its National Freephone Helpline and Dublin based one to one support services in 2015, during which 16,375 disclosures of domestic abuse against women were made. In the same year, the organisation heard 5,966 disclosures of abuse of children. Women’s Aid reveals 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 against women and children. The organisation draws attention to the very dangerous nature of domestic abuse, which can include threats to kill, serious assaults and in extreme cases, homicide. Women’s Aid is calling for the Government to extend protection to young women in dating relationships and reveals that, in the face of an unexpected and significant 20% cut to its statutory funding last year by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, they extended the National Freephone Helpline to a 24/7 service from January 2016, in line with recommendations the EU Victims Directive and the Istanbul Convention. The organisation insists that the government should fully resource the 24/7 National Freephone Helpline and other vital domestic violence support services to meet demand.
Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid, outlines some of the abuse disclosed:
“In 2015, women told us that they were kept prisoner in their own homes, cut with knives, stabbed, spat on, punched, slapped, kicked, held down and strangled 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’s Aid hears from women who feel trapped, alone, isolated with limited options and whose journey to safety can be long and difficult.”
On the 20th anniversary of collecting data on female homicide in Ireland, Women’s Aid is highlighting the very dangerous and violent nature of domestic abuse. Ms Martin explains:
“Domestic abuse is dangerous. It kills women. It kills children, too. In 2015, women disclosed on 970 occasions, that their abusive partners threatened to kill them, their children and their families. There were 579 additional disclosures of assaults with weapons, threats with weapons and being strangled and smothered. The threat of violence against women and children always hangs in the air and women disclosed being punched, cut with knives, hit with golf clubs, scalded and strangled.”
Ms Martin continues:
“Strangulation or choking is a form of control used to instill fear and terror. Bare hands can be the most dangerous weapon. 20 years of collecting data on female homicide in Ireland shows that in 46% of homicides no weapons were used with strangulation being the second highest mode of killing at 26%, while 20% were beaten. 31% of women were stabbed, 12% were shot and 11% were killed by other means. Over these 20 years, 211 women have been murdered in Ireland. 13 children were murdered alongside their mothers. In the resolved cases, 55% of women were killed by their partners or ex-partners. These statistics are a stark reminder of the dangerous and sometimes fatal nature of domestic abuse and the tragedy it brings for family, friends and communities. The killing of women, and in some cases, their children, by abusive men is an affront to our society and a problem we must take seriously.”
Women’s Aid is also calling for the Government to address the gap in legal protection for young women in dating relationships. Ms Martin explains:
“You are never too young to be abused by an intimate partner and this is highlighted by the 17,000 visits to www.2in2u.ie during 2015. 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. With the popularity of social media, young women are open to a host of new and insidious forms of abuse facilitated by new technologies and communication channels. Good progress was made on strengthening domestic violence legislation by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, T.D., in July 2015 with her announcement of further protection for victims from intimidation as they go through the court system. Yet this draft bill did not extend legal protection to young women in dating relationships who are not living with their partners nor have a child in common with them.
There exists an opportunity to close this gap. This Bill was not brought into law during the lifetime of the last Government and this legislation remains at draft stage. With a new Government and a new Dáil, we urge the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, to grasp this opportunity to extend cover young women in dating relationships in the draft legislation.”
The Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline became a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week service in January 2016 despite an unexpected 20% cut in Government funding in 2015. The demand of this new ‘out of hours’ night service has been phenomenal. Ms Martin details:
“In the first few months of going 24/7, we answered 1,400 calls in our ‘out of hours’ night service. Think of all those voices, desperate for help in the middle of the night and the early morning. Women who needed someone to answer the phone to them. Someone to listen, believe and support. We know there will be many more. Our resources were over-stretched before we suffered funding cuts. However, we are determined to keep going, to keep answering the phone day and night. But we need the Government to fully support our vital work by restoring funding to Women’s Aid and fund the extension of the National Freephone Helpline to continue as a 24/7 service.”
Ms Martin concludes:
“Women experiencing domestic abuse are in a bleak 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 know how vital our services are. One caller summed it up perfectly saying “for the first time in my life I was able to tell someone what was happening. Women’s Aid didn’t judge or blame me. They just listened.”
Words like these inspire us all, Board, staff and volunteers to continue to listen, believe and support women, every single time.
The Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. www.womensaid.ie
For more information contact Christina Sherlock, Communications and Campaigns Officer, 01-678 8858 or 087 919 2457. Email email@example.com.
Launch details: 11am-12.30pm Wednesday 15th June 2016 at Wood Quay Venue, Dublin City Council Offices, Wood Quay, Dublin 2. Pictures available from Paul Sharp, Sharppix (firstname.lastname@example.org), from 1pm, Wednesday 15th June 2016.