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'A game of snakes and ladders': 28% of calls to Women's Aid were about abuse by ex-partners

A Women’s Aid report analysed the figures on the number of women who reported abuse last year.
Apr 17th 2018, 6:01 AM 21,812 0

shutterstock_1052791106 Source: Shutterstock

My friend said, ‘I didn’t think you’d put up with that. Why didn’t you just leave?’ It made me so angry.

THERE WERE 19,385 reports of domestic abuse against women and children made to a women’s charity last year, new figures show.

Figures in the Women’s Aid Impact Report for 2017 show that of 15,833 reports of women being domestically abused, 65% related to emotional abuse (10,281), and 22% to physical abuse (3,502).

There were 607 reports of sexual abuse and 1,443 of financial abuse.

There were also 3,552 disclosures of abuse against children last year. Out of that figure, 3,286 related to emotional abuse, 228 to physical abuse, and 38 reports of sexual abuse.

Ninety-six percent of callers to the 24-hour helpline were women, and 4% were from men.

The report’s introduction points out that there are stories of women in very difficult positions behind these figures.

They tell us of horrific sexual, financial, physical and emotional abuse and coercive control. They tell us of their darkest fears and the impact domestic abuse has on them and their children.

Sexual abuse Source: Women's Aid

Of those who reported abuse, 83% were being abused by a current (55%) or former partner (28%), with 17% reporting abuse from a non-intimate family member or another person.

The report points out that leaving an abusive partner doesn’t always guarantee an end to abuse: 28% of the women that Women’s Aid worked with last year were abused by ex-partners and ex-husbands.

Women have told us that going through the process of leaving and seeking support can feel like a game of ‘snakes and ladders’.

Pie chart Source: Women's Aid

In its report, Women’s Aid said that domestic abuse had a significant, lasting and wide-ranging impact on those affected. Victims can suffer from:

  • Panic attacks, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, suicidal-ideation and attempted suicide
  • Feeling exhausted, having low self-esteem and self-doubt as a result of the abuse
  • Miscarriage due to physical assault
  • Loss of consciousness due to strangulation
  • Hospitalisation
  • Being isolated from friends and family members, from their community and in some cases from their children.

What else is in the report?

Why did the Garda stand at the garden gate and let him back in to the house, despite the barring order?

The report, drawing on the experiences of women who have been abused, has analysed a number of services related to domestic abuse and how they could be improved.

These include the legal system, legislation, An Garda Síochána, and barriers women face when trying to leave abusive partners.

“Women are often living in fear of the perpetrator and have been told they will be killed if they leave. They face an underresourced and, at times, an unsupportive legal system.

They may face stigma, shame or lack emotional support. They may have no financial resources or simply have no safe place to go to.

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Women’s Aid says that of their court accompaniment service, 45% of cases were for domestic violence orders under the Domestic Violence Act with 50% of women having an order granted.

The experience of going to court can be very disempowering… Proceedings can be drawn out, costly and often do not end up increasing the safety of women and their children.

Women that Women’s Aid has worked with have said they’ve called on gardaí for protection.

These women have often been subjected to a number of crimes including: attempted murder (often by strangulation or suffocating), assaults of varying degrees with or without weapons, rape, stalking, theft, fraud, arson, threats (to kill, burn down the house, to harm the woman, the children or her family).

But according to a survey by Women’s Aid, Gardaí’s responses range from negative to excellent.

Garda Source: Women's Aid

112 women said that the Gardaí did not enforce an existing protective order while 44 women said that they did.

In providing services to women, Women’s Aid made 7,617 referrals to legal experts and Gardaí, 2,082 to refuge and housing services, 659 to social welfare services, and 954 to health and medical services.

If you have been affected by domestic abuse and would like to talk, contact the below numbers or visit

  • Women’s Aid: 1800 341 900
  • Amen (for men): 046 902 3718
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Gráinne Ní Aodha


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