Media Release: New Women’s Aid Research Calls for Zero Tolerance of Intimate Relationship Abuse among Young People.

  • Women’s Aid release new research findings on young people’s (aged 18-25) understanding of intimate relationship abuse.
  • The study found that the majority of young people feel a responsibility to intervene if they are concerned a close friend might be experiencing intimate relationship abuse (81%).
  • However, very few young people believed it is easy to spot the signs of abuse in a friend’s relationship (16%).
  • Half of young people (53%) were not aware of new and important legislation, the Harassment & Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020 (CoCo’s law).
  • Survivor of abuse calls for family and friends to stand by their loved one when they are being subjected to abuse by a partner.
  • President Michael D. Higgins and Minister Helen McEntee, T.D., address the online gathering alongside Irish and International experts on tackling gender based violence. 
  • Women’s Aid also launch its Too Into You Public Awareness Campaign including a new resource on how to help a friend who is an abusive relationship. 

Thursday 25th November 2021: Today, on the UN Day Opposing Violence against Women, Women’s Aid, a national organisation supporting women affected by domestic violence including coercive control, launches new research findings on young people’s (aged 18-25) understanding of intimate relationship abuse.  The research also highlights young people’s attitudes to intervening if they think someone they know might be subjected to abuse by a partner or ex.  The research, based on a robust nationally representative sample of 500 young women and men (aged 18-25), and followed by a series of focus groups, conducted by RedC, found that the majority of young people feel a responsibility to intervene if they are concerned a close friend might be experiencing intimate relationship abuse, but most feel unsure of how to recognise and respond to this issue.

The study found that very few young people believed it is easy to spot the signs of abuse which is the crucial first step in intervening in a relationship where abuse may be present. For example, young people weren’t sure if a partner getting jealous frequently or looking through their phone and asking for their passwords were warning signs for abuse. These are recognised ‘red flags’ for unhealthy and potentially abusive relationships.

Speaking ahead of today’s webinar, Sarah Benson, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid says:

 “Women’s Aid wanted to understand young people’s understanding, attitudes and confidence in terms of reaching out to someone they are worried about. In order to do this, we needed to first survey young people’s understanding of abuse itself. We asked what they think the warning signs of abuse look like, who they think is abused vs who is the abuser, what they think are the causes of someone acting abusively towards their partner. We also assessed their knowledge of support organisations and legislation. We found that while a high number of people had experienced abuse or knew someone who had, just 16% of young people believed it is easy to actually spot the signs of abuse.  Many young people think that signs of abuse can be kept hidden and therefore, harder to spot amongst their friendship group.”

Women’s Aid also found that targeted public awareness is needed to both explain the concept of ‘coercive control’ and to inform of specialist support services and legislation, such as the Harassment and Harmful Communications Act (Coco’s law), which contains provisions to prosecute online harassment and image based sexual abuse: devastating acts that can disproportionately impact younger people. 

Ms Benson continues:

“Young people are crucial allies for anyone experience abuse in their age group.  However, the findings of this national research show us that while young people feel a responsibility to look out for friends who might be experiencing abuse, they have concerns around making the situation worse and keeping their friends and loved ones safe. There is an awareness gap on the causes and warning signs of abuse amongst young people. We hope our Too Into You campaign will help young people feel more confident in spotting the signs of abuse and support their confidence in carefully checking in on their peers if they are worried about them. If young people are empowered and equipped, they will be able to start the conversation with friends and help them in a supportive and safe way.”

Women’s Aid launches its Too Into You Public Awareness Campaign today which highlights the signs of unhealthy relationships, helps young people feel confident in starting a conversation with someone they think might be experiencing abuse, and encourages them direct them to seek supports for intimate relationship abuse at

“We want young people to know that, even if they concerned or unsure, there are still things they can do to help someone they are worried about. Friends and family can play a key role in supporting those who are experiencing abuse to get over an abusive relationship and ensuring they feel safe, supported and believed. Young people who are worried about someone they know can access our free and confidential Instant Messaging Service at or call the Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline on 1800 341 900. Our ‘Help a Friend’ tool, available at can also help young people support someone they are worried about.”

Too Into You advocate and survivor of intimate relationship abuse, Juliana Shiel, believes that friends and family play a vital role for someone trying to leave an abusive relationship:

Ms Shiel says:

“One of the hardest parts of being in an abusive relationship is getting and staying out of it. It took me six tries to get out of mine, and it was the support of my friends and family that helped me stay out. It is likely that someone in an abusive relationship is being manipulated into thinking their partner is the only person that truly cares about them, so showing love and support to someone you think might be in abusive relationship, even if they show signs of pushing you away, is vital.” 

Ms Benson further states:

“Our research also found that there is a need to help young people by ‘myth-busting’ some reported assumptions which can impede a long terms response to preventing and combating abuse. For example: the majority of young people believe that drug and alcohol misuse causes someone to act abusively towards their partner. While drugs and alcohol can be an aggravating factor – they are not the root cause of abusive behaviours. Studies show that even when using alcohol or drugs abusers can still exercise control by targeting their partner specifically and not others. Many also abuse when there is no alcohol or drugs involved.”

In addition, Ms Benson continues:

“While 41% believe correctly that women are most commonly victims of abuse, 29% of young people surveyed did not identify this, and in focus groups this ‘gender neutral’ position was also articulated particularly by young men. This contradicts international evidence as well as our own national findings in 2020 (reaffirmed again in the 2021 survey), which showed that 1 in 5 young women and 1 in 11 young men have experienced intimate relationship abuse in Ireland. Intimate relationship abuse is a highly gendered issue. The majority of victims/survivors worldwide are women in heterosexual relationships, but men can also suffer and it can also occur in LGBTQ+ relationships. A social analysis, and engaging in discussion about unequal power relations based on intersecting factors such as sex, gender, sexuality, ethnicity or class, is important to ensure that we respond to the circumstances and needs of allvictims/survivors by understanding the social context in which abuse can be enabled, and which can also cause barriers to getting help. These can be uncomfortable conversations, but to truly achieve future generations without abuse we need to have them.”

Ms Benson concludes:

“Our research and Too Into You campaign launched today are just one component of the whole community and state response that we need to create a zero tolerance of violence against women and girls. As a society, we need to collectively take responsibility for ensuring equality, respect and dignity for all. All generations need to show leadership to our young people. This means that everyone has a part to play. We need leaders in our communitiesat all levels to speak out against perpetrators of violence. We need anyone affected by intimate relationship abuse to know that it is never okay; it is not your fault, and you will be listened to, believed and supported.”

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


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

Launch event: 11am to 1pm, 25th November 2021.  Speakers include: President Michael D. Higgins, Minister Helen McEntee, T.D., Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid, Juliana Shiel, survivor of intimate relationship abuse, Jackson Katz, Co-Founder, Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) who is a leader in the global movement of men working to promote gender equality and prevent gender violence. Suzanne Jacob OBE, Chief Executive of Safe Lives UK who will explore Safe Lives work with young people and research they have carried out as part of their Safe Young Lives ‘Verge of Harm(ing)’ project and Ngozi Fulani, CEO, Sistah Space, a specialist organisation in the UK that supports African and Caribbean heritage women and girls who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse and sexual abuse. Sarah McInerney, journalist and broadcaster will chair the event.

Register here

Photocall details: Sarah Benson will be available for photographs and soundbite interviews at 9.30am at Women’s Aid, 5 Wilton Place, Dublin 2, D02 RR27.

Campaign photos will be made available by Paul Sharp by 9am, 25th November 2021.  Email or call 0866689087,

Further Notes to editors/Producers:

  • Case study available here
  • Research Brief available here: Research Brief PDF
  • Resources for Young People on the dedicated website  
  • ‘Help a Friend’ tool available at Help a Friend | Too Into You
  • Relationship Health Check
  • 10 Dangers signs of intimate relationships abuse
  • Women’s Aid is a leading 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 Instant Messaging Support Service available daily on  The 24hr National Freephone Helpline is a gateway to other local independent support services and refuges around the country.
  • Women’s Aid also offers a Dublin-based One to One Support Service and Court Accompaniment Service and runs the Domestic Abuse Information Service at Dolphin House Family Law Court.
  • Women’s Aid commissioned Red C research to gain a better understanding and insight into young people’s understanding of and attitudes to intimate relationship abuse. Five-hundred 18 to 25 year olds took part in an online survey from the 30th September to the 12th of October 2021. 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.