Domestic Abuse Disclosures at a Record High in 2023, according to Women’s Aid.  

  • Women’s Aid’s Annual Impact Report 2023 details 40,048 disclosures of domestic abuse against women and children, during 28,638 contacts with its national and regional support services last year.
  • 18% increase in disclosures of domestic abuse compared to previous year and the highest ever received by the organisation in its 50-year history.  
  • Abuse of women included emotional abuse, physical violence, sexual abuse, and economic control, many combining to constitute coercive control, with an alarming increase in both physical violence (up 74%) and economic abuse (up 87%) compared to the previous year.
  • Also released today is a new Insights Report into 11 publicly reported cases of coercive control convictions through the courts reveals the devastating scale and harm of this offence and raises questions about maximum sentencing for this offence.
  • Implementation of the Third National Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Strategy, with cross government co-operation, is crucial to effectively reduce the scale of violence against women.

Tuesday 18th June 2024: Women’s Aid, a national organisation supporting victims-survivors of domestic abuse, today reveals that they have recorded the highest level of disclosures of domestic abuse in its 50-years history. The Women’s Aid Annual Impact Report 2023 outlines 40,048 disclosures with its National Freephone Helpline and Regional Face-to-Face services during 28,638 contacts last year. This represents an 18% increase on the previous year and the highest ever recorded by the organisation.   Last year, women told Women’s Aid that their partners or ex-partners were subjecting them to a broad and brutal pattern of abuse. Women reported assaults with weapons, constant surveillance, and monitoring, relentless put downs and humiliations, the taking and sharing of intimate images online, complete control over all family finances, sexual assault, rape and being threatened with theirs or their children’s lives. The impacts on these women were chilling and ranged from exhaustion, isolation, and hopelessness to serious injury, suffering miscarriages, poverty, feeling a loss of identity and suicide ideation, hypervigilance, and homelessness.

Sarah Benson, CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Women’s Aid says:

“The number and nature of the disclosures of abuse to our frontline services is utterly appalling. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. One in four women in Ireland is subjected to domestic abuse and there are also so many children, families and whole communities also impacted. Fear, stigma, and self-blame due to the impact of the abuse – but also persisting social attitudes to domestic violence prevent victims from coming forward.  So many victims-survivors lack the information or confidence to contact specialist services, and about one third will suffer in total isolation, telling nobody what is happening to them. We still have so much work to do to break this silence to encourage those in need to get the support they deserve. What we hear in our national and regional services is replicated across Ireland in local domestic abuse refuges and organisations.” 

Ms. Benson continues:

“It is shocking that in our 50th year of service to women, we are still receiving record disclosures of domestic abuse. Especially as we noticed the rise in physical and economic abuse over the past year. Behind our harrowing statistics there are strong, resilient women who have taken a courageous step to share their story to our frontline services. We know that so many more women suffer alone, in silence and without specialist support. Most of the women contacting the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline and regional face-to-face services disclosed that they were being subjected to and threatened with multiple forms of abuse at the same time, which constitutes coercive control by a current or former male intimate partner. Coercive control is a persistent pattern of controlling, coercive and threatening behaviour including all or some forms of domestic abuse (emotional, physical, economic, sexual including threats) with the most devastating outcome being the loss of life.”

In addition to the Annual Impact Report 2023, Women’s Aid is also releasing research carried out with the pro bono support of Authur Cox LLP which examines the charges and convictions arising from the coercive control offence to date. The Insights Report: Review of the Publicly Reported Enforcement of the Coercive Control Offence examines 11 concluded cases based on publicly available sources. This review offers timely, thought-provoking insights into the nature, impact, and prosecution of coercive control since the enactment of the new offence in 2019. The detail of the cases in this Insights Report suggest that the charge of coercive control is being applied in addition to individual charges of other crimes to capture and sanction the whole lived experience and pattern of abuse rather than single incidents. 

Ms. Benson explains:

“The evidence presented to prove coercive control in the coercive control prosecutions shines a light on the horrendous range of abuse suffered by women at the hands of their current or former male intimate partners, often over lengthy periods. The testimony and comments by women powerfully show the harm and negative impact of coercive control on their lives, their children’s lives and the lives of their wider family and friends. In most of the cases included in this report, there is a strong assertion of the importance for women of being believed and supported throughout every stage of the legal process, particularly by specialist services and members of An Garda Síochána. It is important to remember that there are many cases where acute coercive control may not include physical violence but the impact on victims-survivors is nonetheless completely devastating.”

2024 marks a landmark milestone for Women’s Aid. Established in 1974, the organisation has been supporting victims-survivors of domestic abuse through its free, confidential national and regional frontline services and has been instrumental in the many social, legislative and systems changes that have increased protection and supports for everyone subjected to domestic abuse in Ireland over the past five decades. 

Ms Benson highlights: 

“We have been supporting generations of women and their children. We are privileged to have empowered women to share their experiences, and to witness their incredible resilience as ingenious survivors. We have spent 50 years listening, believing, supporting, and empowering women. But until women are safe from abuse, we will never be truly equal. After 50 years of campaigning, we have a society where domestic violence is taken more seriously, but we are not there yet. If we want to stop harm before it happens, we need to be a society with zero tolerance of domestic abuse. Women’s Aid cannot do it alone. We need champions in our society to end abuse. In government, in civil society, but also in our workplaces, communities, schools and homes. Only by changing our attitudes to male violence against women can we create an Ireland where women can feel safe and supported, now and in the future.”

Ms Benson adds:

“As we reflect on what has changed over 50 years, we can pinpoint positive developments in legislation, service provision and public recognition of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. We can also recognise that some issues such as victim blaming and stigma persist, and we face new challenges that were barely conceived of 50 years ago: the internet as a new tool of abuse and victim shaming, ubiquitous pornography. Irish society has changed for the better in so many ways over the last five decades. Yet, it is an undeniable fact that Women’s Aid is busier than ever because we still live in an unequal society. At this very moment, there are many thousands of women and children living in fear of the person who should love, respect and care for them.”

Ms. Benson concludes:

“The government is in year three of the Third National Domestic Sexual and Gender Based Violence Strategy which is structured around the four key components that will help truly eradicate male violence against women: prevention, protection, prosecution, and policy co-ordination. We recognise and welcome the establishment of CUAN – the dedicated Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence Agency, the much-needed plans to improve to the family law system, the reviewing of school curriculum to include reference to consent and healthy relationships, the introduction of stalking and non-fatal strangulation legislation and the provision of statutory paid domestic violence leave for employees. There have been increased resources for vital specialist domestic violence services, but it must be acknowledged that this is coming from a baseline of historic neglect. This is all excellent progress, but there is still much to be done to ensure correct implementation and enforcement of all these measures. It will require focus, co-ordination and – crucially – continued investment from Government to see the ambitions of the Strategy fully implemented.” 


Support Information  

 Relevant Documents – all embargoed until 00.01 18th June 2024

 Notes to the producers/editor:

  •  Women’s Aid is a national, feminist organisation working to prevent and address the impact of domestic violence and abuse including coercive control, in Ireland since 1974. We do this by advocating, influencing, training, and campaigning for effective responses to reduce the scale and impacts of domestic abuse on women and children in Ireland and providing high quality, specialised, integrated, support services. 
  • Photo call: Media doorstep and photocall, outside (weather pending) at 10.30 at LinkedIn, One Wilton Place, Dublin 2. 
  • Launch details:
    When: Tuesday 18th June 2024, 11:00 am – 1:30pm. 

              Where: LinkedIn, One Wilton Place, Dublin 2.


  • Helen McEntee, T.D., Minister for Justice (via pre-recorded video). 
  • Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe, CEO, CUAN – The Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Agency. 
  • Sarah Benson, CEO, Women’s Aid. 
  • Eve McDowell, co-founder Stalking Ireland and advocacy specialist.    
  • There will also be a panel discussion and Q&A where the main contributors will be joined by Clíodhna Golden, from Arthur Cox LLP, who supported the Coercive Control research. 
  • This event will be chaired by Ailbhe Smyth Chair of Women’s Aid Board of Directors. 

  The Women’s Aid Annual Impact Report 2023 Key statistics:

  • 28,638 contacts with Women’s Aid, including
    1. 20,891 contacts with the 24hr National Freephone Helpline (including calls, messages, and emails) 
    2. 7,747 contacts with Face-to-Face Support Services (including one-to-one support, court accompaniments, drop-in visits, HRSP (High Risk Support Project) support sessions)
    3. 23,329 referrals, provision of information and/or advocacy by support workers
    4. 4,112 hours (about 5 and a half months) of Helpline talk time.
  • 40,048 disclosures of domestic abuse, including
    1. 35,570 disclosures of abuse against women, including
      • 1,448 disclosures of sexual abuse
      • 21,974 disclosures of emotional abuse
      • 7,851 disclosures of physical abuse
      • 4,297 disclosures of economic abuse 
    2. 4,478 disclosures of abuse against children
  • 86% in contact with Women’s Aid were abused by a current or former male intimate partner. An additional 9% of women were abused by a man who was not an intimate partner or ex-partner. 5% of women disclosed abuse by a female abuser. 
  • Last year, 2,603 women in contact with the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline disclosed that they had contacted An Garda Síochána because of domestic abuse. 52% found the Gardaí helpful, while 48% found the Gardaí unhelpful. 
  • 1,068 women in contact with the National Freephone Helpline in 2023 said that they had applied for a Domestic Violence Order through the Family Law System. Most orders were granted (87%). 52% found the Family Law System ‘good/helpful/understanding’, while 48% noted their experience as ‘bad’.
  • 712 callers to the Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline identified as being deaf/hard of hearing, Disabled, coming from a Migrant, Traveller, or Roma background, with 61% of these women holding migrant status. 
  • 256,848 visits to with a combined social following of over 133,000.
  • 63,138 visits to with a combined social following of 6,210.
  • Women’s Aid facilitated 609 calls through 36 different languages, with Polish and Portuguese being the most frequent of these languages. 
  • 9 women lost their lives in violence circumstances in 2023. Women’s Aid continues to hold the Femicide Watch for the Republic of Ireland, since 1996 to June 2024 we have witnessed the loss of 266 women’s precious lives, with 78% of women been killed in their own homes. 
  • At least 1 in 4 women in Ireland are subjected to some form of abuse from a current or former partner. (EU Fundamental Rights Agency, Violence against women: An EU-wide survey, 2014). 
  • 50-year timeline available at Women’s Aid’s History Timeline