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Young Irish women 'vulnerable to stalking and online abuse'

Women’s Aid asking Government to extend Domestic Violence Act to cover younger women who are not cohabiting but are subject to abuse.

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YOUNG WOMEN ARE being asked to monitor signs of “unhealthy and abusive” behaviour in their relationships.

Women’s Aid today reported that stalking and online abuse are “on the rise” in relationships between Irish men and women under the age of 25.

Margaret Martin, director of Women’s Aid, said that the perception that abuse in relationships only happens in a ‘domestic’ relationship is misguided. As such, she said that the organisation was calling on the Government to extend the Domestic Violence Act to cover younger women in dating relationships whom she said were “currently left unprotected due to strict cohabitation requirements”.

“Digitally-assisted stalking” was an issue that the organisation also wished to highlight in its two-week awareness campaign 2in2u. Martin added:

Abuse can happen to any woman, at any age and in any type of relationship, including dating relationships. Women’s Aid experience and national and international research shows that many young women are at risk from violence and abuse in intimate relationships first experienced it when they were under the age of 25.

A stark reminder of this vulnerability is that 39 young women aged between 18-25 years of age have been killed since 1996. Of the resolved cases, 53 per cent of the women were murdered by their partner or ex-partners.

Speaking about the effects of stalking, Martin said that stories related to Women’s Aid through their helpline showed that stalking took many forms: following the woman, turning up at their workplace, home and social events, damaging their property or breaking into their home or car, gathering information on them from friends and family, harrassing those close to the women, threatening to self-harm and then, at the extreme end, subjecting the women to physical and/or sexual assault.

What is digitally-assisted stalking?

“Technology is being used by abusive boyfriends and ex-boyfriends to monitor and control women, particularly younger women,” said Martin. This can include the monitoring of mobile phone calls and texts, and stalking on social media. “Women are also disclosing how they are bombarded with texts and calls often telling them, in explicit detail, how they will be attacked or even killed”.

Women have also reported being photographed and filmed without their consent and the images being uploaded to the internet, or being slandered on social media sites by an ex.

  • If any of the above issues have affected you, visit 2in2u.ie or Womensaid.ie or freephone the national Women’s Aid helpline on 1800 341 900.

Column: Domestic violence is an issue we’re not encouraged to think about in Ireland>
Read: Charity warns that male victims of domestic abuse are vulnerable at Christmas>

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