Media Release: Over half of young women abused were under the age of 18, says Women’s Aid.

25 Nov 2020

Embargo: 00.01 25th November 2020
  • New report on intimate relationship abuse of young people (aged 18-25) finds 3 in 5 young people have either personally experienced or know someone 25 or younger who has experienced abuse by a current or former partner.
  • 1 in 5 young women- experience some form of abuse from a current or former partner with 51% under the age of 18 when the abuse started.
  • 1 in 2 abused young women experienced abuse online including taking, sharing and threatening to share intimate images without their consent.
  • Young women experience significant harm as a result of this abuse including: anxiety, depression, low self-esteem as well as isolation from family and friends.
  • Regulation and legislation is urgently needed to combat the online harassment and image based sexual abuse that many young women experience.
  • Women’s Aid launches new #TooIntoYou advertising campaign to highlight the signs of unhealthy relationships and encourages young people to reach out for support.

Wednesday, 25th November 2020: Today on the UN Day Opposing Violence against Women, Women’s Aid, a national organisation supporting women affected by domestic violence, launches a new report on young people’s experience of intimate relationship abuse in Ireland. The report, based on a robust nationally representative sample of 500 young people (aged 18-25), conducted by RedC, found that 3 in 5 young people have either personally experienced or know someone aged 25 or younger, who has experienced abuse by a current or former partner. The same research found that 1 in 5 young women were directly abused with 51% being under 18 when the abuse started. The report also shows how gendered this form of abuse is among younger people including minors, in line with international figures on all ages. It was found that 1 in 11 young men experienced abuse in the same survey.

 Speaking ahead of the launch, Sarah Benson, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid says:

“The findings of this national survey show us that we have particularly alarming levels of intimate relationship abuse experienced by young women in this country One fifth of young women said they experienced abuse which included emotional abuse, physical violence and sexual assault, stalking and harassment. Based on our 2016 CSO data this is as many as 44,540 young women (18-25) which is shocking. Even more troubling is the fact that 51% of young women who had suffered abuse said that it began before their 18th birthday, with just 18 years old being the average age at which the abuse began.”

Women’s Aid has long been concerned about the impact of image based sexual abuse and other forms of online abuse harassment and stalking using digital technology. Our new research has found that 1 in 2 young women abused by a partner experiences abuse online, including constant bombarding with messages, hacking of email and social media accounts and the taking, sharing and threatening to share intimate images without consent.

Ms Benson continues:

“We know that the abuse that takes place online can be particularly devastating given the ‘always on’ nature of life online. It is draining, can often feel inescapable and can be difficult to block a persistent abuser from making contact. It is not a reasonable solution to ask a young person being abused to ‘opt out’ or ‘switch off’. This only isolates people ever more and they should never suffer or be further excluded because of the actions of the perpetrator.”

The harms and impact of intimate relationship abuse are wide ranging and can be long lasting. Our research showed that 84% of young women said that the abuse had a ‘severe’ impact on them. Young women reported that they had suffered anxiety, depression, low self-esteem as well as being isolated from family, friends and workmates because of the abuse. Some also reported suicide ideation and hospitalisation due to physical injuries.

 Ms Benson explains:

“As a society, we cannot continue to stand over a situation where such a significant number of young women, many minors, are deeply harmed and traumatised at the hands of current or former intimate partners. It is not the entry into adulthood that we want or imagine for our young people. The impact of intimate relationship abuse can mean a young woman dropping out of college or not being able to take up work, experiencing depression, anxiety and attempting suicide. What is even more worrying is the fact that over a third of young women who were abused reported that they never told anyone about what is happened because of fear, stigma and shame. That is a very difficult and lonely place to be.”

Women’s Aid has been campaigning for a number of law changes over the last decade that positively affect younger victims of intimate relationship abuse. The extension of eligibility to ‘dating relationships’ of the protections of the Domestic Violence Act 2018 has been most welcome in this regard. However, the organisation believes that regulation and legislation still lags badly behind the fast paced digital world.

 Ms Benson outlines:

“Urgent measures are needed to prevent intimate relationship abuse occurring as well as combatting the vast amount of misogyny and vitriol that women in general are subjected to everyday online. The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017 should be urgently progressed and enacted to criminalise image based sexual abuse and other forms of online harassment and stalking. We also believe that an Online Safety Commissioner should be established through the enactment of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill 2019 and accessible civil remedies be put in place for victims.”

Women’s Aid launches its Too Into You Public Awareness Campaign today which highlights the signs of unhealthy relationships and encourages young people to reach out for support. The campaign website has a number of useful tools including a relationship health check quiz and a guide to protecting yourself online.

 Ms Benson concludes:

“Our report launched today has only scratched the surface of this huge problem in Irish society. We need regulation, we need legislation, we need more in-depth research and extensive education and awareness campaigns – including in schools. Most of all, as a community we need to ensure responsibility lies with the perpetrator and to say loudly and clearly to anyone affected by intimate relationship abuse that yes, it’s abuse; it is never okay; it is not your fault, and you will be believed and supported.”

The organisation encourages anyone affected to reach out to the Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline on 1800 341900 or use its instant messaging service on or


Report launched at seminar 25th November 11-1pm. Speakers include President Michael D. Higgins, Minister Helen McEntee, Sarah Benson CEO, Women's Aid, Senator Ivana Bacik, Professor Clare McGlynn, Professor of Law at Durham University with particular expertise in the legal regulation of pornography, image-based sexual abuse and sexual violence and Clare Austick, Vice-President for Welfare, Union of Students of Ireland. The event will be chaired by Dearbhail McDonald.

Launch details:
Wednesday 25th November 11am-1pm. Zoom Webinar - register online at

Photocall at the new Too Into You Mural, The Button Factory, Curved Street, Dublin 2 at 9am, Wednesday 2020 with Sarah Benson and Linda Smith, Manager of the Women's Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline and Instant Messaging Support Service.

For more information, contact: Christina Sherlock on 087-9192457 or email

 Further Notes to editors/Producers:

  • Case studies available to download at:
  • Full Report can be downloaded at
  • Resources for Young People on the dedicated website
  • Women's Aid is a national organisation providing support and information to women experiencing domestic violence through its Direct Services. It runs the only free, national, domestic violence 24hr helpline (1800 341 900, 24 hours, 7 days) with specialised trained staff and 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. The National Helpline also runs the new Instant Messaging Support Service available daily on
  • 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 Inchicore Outreach Centre). The 24hr National Freephone Helpline is a gateway to other local independent support services and refuges around the country.
  • Key Statistics from the new report:
    • 3 in 5 young people have experienced, or know someone who has experienced, intimate relationship abuse.
    • 1 in 5 young women and 1 in 11 young men have suffered intimate relationship abuse.
    • 1 in 6 young women and 1 in 13 young men have suffered coercive control by a partner or ex-partner.
    • 51% of young women affected experienced the abuse under the age of 18.
    • Of the young women who had suffered abuse, 1 in 2 experienced online abuse.
  • Of the 1 in 5 young women who experienced intimate relationship abuse:
    • 92% experienced emotional abuse.
    • Physical abuse:
      • 56% were threatened with physical violence.
      • 58% experienced ‘less severe’ physical abuse (e.g., slapping, shoving, etc.).
      • 32% experienced ‘severe’ physical abuse (e.g., punching, strangulation, burning, etc.).
      • 24% experienced physical abuse with a weapon or threat of a weapon to cause or threaten to cause serious injury
    • Sexual Abuse:
      • 75% experienced sexual coercion.
      • 51% were sexually assaulted
      • 27% were raped.
    • 77% experienced coercive control.
    • 28% experienced financial abuse.
    • 55% experienced stalking and/or harassment.
    • Of young women abused, 49% experienced online abuse using digital technology.
    • Women’s Aid commissioned Red C research to gain a better understanding and insight into the experiences of young people and the prevalence, nature and impact of intimate relationship abuse. Five-hundred 18 to 25 year olds took part in an online survey from the 8th to the 15th of September 2020. The data collected was then weighted across gender, region and social class to ensure a nationally representative sample based on the latest projections from the Central Statistics Office.