Media Release: 22,341 reports of domestic abuse against women & children made to Women’s Aid in 2015.

15 Jun 2016

  • Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, T.D., launches the Women’s Aid Impact Report 2015.
  • Impact Report 2015 details 12,041 contacts made with the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline and Dublin based One to One Services.  In 2015, the national domestic abuse service noted 16,375 disclosures of domestic abuse against women and 5,966 disclosures of child abuse (22,341 in total).
  • Women’s Aid highlights the very dangerous and violent nature of domestic abuse disclosed in 2015 including death threats, serious assaults and attempted strangulations.
  • Women’s Aid says Government should not to miss the opportunity to extend eligibility for Safety Orders to young women in dating relationships.
  • Women’s Aid calls for full resources for the National 24/7 Domestic Violence Helpline.

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

Ends.

For more information contact Christina Sherlock, Communications and Campaigns Officer, 01-678 8858 or 087 919 2457.  Email christina.sherlock@womensaid.ie

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 (paul@sharppix.ie), from 1pm, Wednesday 15th June 2016. 

Download the Impact Report 2015 and the Summary.

Watch our Impact 2015 video. (3 minutes)

Trends and further information from Impact Report 2015:

  • 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, 24 hours, 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.)
  • 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.
  • Abuse of children: There were 5,966 disclosures of child abuse to Women’s Aid Services in 2015.  This figure includes 5,582 disclosures of emotional abuse and 281 disclosures where children were physically or sexually abused by the perpetrator of their mother’s abuse. It also includes 82 disclosures of where children were being abused during access visits and 21 disclosures of child abduction in the context of domestic violence.
  • 35% of calls to the National Helpline came from the Greater Dublin area while 31% of calls came from outside Dublin34% of callers did not disclose a location.97% of callers to the Helpline were female and 3% were male.
  • The Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline answered 9,308 calls in 2015. There were 870 one to one support visits and 239 court accompaniments carried out by its One to One Support Services.  An additional 308 drop-in sessions took place at the Dolphin House Support and Referral Service.  There were also 1,316 additional support calls by our One to One Services, including at Dolphin House.
  • 69% of contacts were first time contacts while 31% of contacts were by repeat users of our services.
  • There were 16,375 disclosures of domestic abuse to Women’s Aid Direct Services in 2015 including 10,876 disclosures of emotional abuse, 3,281 disclosures of physical abuse, 616 disclosures of sexual abuse (Including 212 disclosures of rape) and 1,602 disclosures of financial abuse. 
  • Women contacting Women’s Aid disclosed that 81% of abusers were male intimate partners. (This breaks down as - 42% husband, 6% ex-husband, 16% partner, 17% ex-partner). 
  • 390 callers to the Helpline and 27% of women using the Women’s Aid One to One Support Service for the first time in 2015 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 176 calls using interpreters in 2015.