Thursday 5th April 2018: Women’s Aid, the leading frontline support organisation for women experiencing domestic violence, calls for a Yes vote in the forthcoming referendum and supports the Together for Yes Policy on the General Scheme of a Bill to Regulate Termination of Pregnancy launched today. The organisation, which has been supporting women and their children affected by domestic violence has said that the Current barriers to safe and legal abortion in Ireland give abusive men additional power to deny women the right to make their own reproductive and sexual choices. Voting Yes to Repeal and the proposal to give access to abortion in early pregnancy up to 12 weeks (without giving a reason) will impact positively on women affected by rape and domestic abuse by giving them access to safe and regulated compassionate and non-judgemental healthcare in Ireland.
Speaking at the Together for Yes Policy launch, Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid said:
“In our experience, as providers of frontline specialist support and services to women victims of male violence, Women’s Aid has found that rape, sexual assault, and sexual coercion are frequently used as part of a pattern of violent and coercive behaviour used by abusive men to control their partners. We also know that women find it difficult to talk about sexual violence in intimate relationships and very often women only start to disclose this to us when a level of trust is built up.”
Since 2002 Women’s Aid has received 2,417 disclosures of rape by current or ex-partners. Last year, we heard 607 disclosures of sexual violence which included 323 reports of rape.
Ms Martin continued:
“The disclosures we hear are only the tip of the iceberg. Women using our services tell us that they are beaten during sex; have had sexually explicit images and videos made without their consent; are denied access to family planning; are drugged and raped while unconscious; are sexually assaulted with weapons and are forced to carry out humiliating and painful sexual acts. Women also tell us that they have been coerced into sex with their abusers friends and/or forced into prostitution. We also here from women who feel they can’t say no because they fear repercussions from their partner.”
Women’s Aid also highlighted the reproductive consequences of domestic and sexual abuse for women. The impact of domestic violence is very traumatic and affects women’s self-confidence, leaves her living in fear, suffering panic attacks, having difficulty sleeping, and ending up exhausted and anxious.
Ms Martin explained:
“Domestic and sexual abuse has consequences on women’s reproductive health including forced pregnancy; unplanned pregnancy as a result of rape; threatened and actual violence during pregnancy and STIs because partners refusing to use condoms or who undermine her use of any form of contraceptive.”
Women’s Aid believes the 8th Amendment brings additional trauma to women experiencing sexual and domestic violence with the current barriers to safe and legal abortion in Ireland give abusive men additional power to deny women the right to make their own reproductive and sexual choices. Our experience also shows that abusive partners exercise control over women’s freedom of movement and her access to financial resources. These are particularly significant where the option of abortion is only available to women with sufficient economic means and the freedom to travel outside Ireland.
Ms Martin added:
“Something that might not be to the fore of people’s minds when discussing the impact of the 8th Amendment is the very real restrictive methods domestic abusers use to track their partners. We hear from women who are being stalked and monitored online. Research by Women’s Aid in the UK that 41% of victims were being tracked/harassed using electronic devices. Abusive partners use a range of digital tools to monitor women, find out her online and bank account passwords and keep track of her whereabouts. These tactics significantly impact on her freedom of movement, her privacy and her help-seeking, for example, her ability travel outside the jurisdiction or to source abortion pills from outside Ireland.”
Consequently access is very unequal and women who are highly controlled as well as women who are living in poverty and women asylum seekers, for example, experience additional trauma as a result.
These experiences inform Women’s Aid position as a pro-choice organisation a platform member of Together for Yes. We are steadfast in our belief that women should be free to make their own reproductive choices. Voting Yes to Repeal and the proposal to give access to abortion in early pregnancy up to 12 weeks (without giving a reason) will impact positively on women affected by rape and domestic abuse by giving them access to safe and regulated compassionate and non-judgemental healthcare in Ireland.
Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900.
For more information: Contact Christina Sherlock, Head of Communications and Fundraising, Women’s Aid, 0879192457/01 678 8858 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors/producers: