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Domestic Violence

Record high number of domestic abuse reports were made with Women's Aid last year

The organisation has warned that specialist frontline services to support victims and survivors are “creaking at the seams”.

A RECORD HIGH number of domestic abuse reports were made with Women’s Aid last year, with the organisation warning that the system to support victims and survivors is under strain.

The group says that specialist frontline services to support victims and survivors are “creaking at the seams”, ranging from accommodation providers to the family and criminal law systems.

The findings are detailed in Women’s Aid annual report for 2022, which saw almost 34,000 disclosures of domestic abuse against women and children made to the charity. 

It was a 16% increase in contacts compared to the previous year and the highest ever number received by the organisation.

These reports of abuse included coercive control, emotional abuse, physical violence, sexual abuse, and economic control.

It found that 12 women died violently in 2022, according to the organisation’s Femicide Watch, with five more women having lost their lives in allegedly violent circumstances in  Ireland this year. 

Reacting to the report today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland is experiencing an “epidemic” of gender-based violence.

“I have to say those figures are extremely worrying. We are experiencing an epidemic of gender based violence in Ireland and it is very much a Government priority to deal with it,” he said. 

The Taoiseach said the government strategy included laws around coercive control and strangulation, increasing conviction rates and setting up a dedicated agency to deal with domestic violence.

He said it was very much a priority for the government and said he believed proposed measures would make a difference.

“But we do want to acknowledge that it’s a very serious problem. And a lot of women don’t feel safe because of the violence that is perpetrated.

“The government has a strategy that has been welcomed by all the groups who work with victims of domestic- or gender-based violence,” added Varadkar. 

Sarah Benson, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “One in four women in Ireland are subjected to domestic abuse.

“We know that so many women suffer alone, in silence and without specialist support.

“Behind our figures are real women and families whose lives have been devastated by the scourge of male violence.

“Women who are trying to protect and keep themselves and their children safe in the face of unrelenting pressures.”

Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, Sarah Benson, said the figures are only the “tip of an enormous iceberg”.

“Our Annual Impact Report 2022 is a harrowing reminder of the levels of violence and abuse in homes and relationships in Ireland,” Benson said. 

“One in four women in Ireland are subjected to domestic abuse. We know that so many women suffer alone, in silence and without specialist support.

“Behind our figures released today are real women and families whose lives have been devastated by the scourge of male violence. Women who are trying to protect and keep themselves and their children safe in the face of unrelenting pressures.”

Benson added that women had told the charity last year about the “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,” she said. 

“The impacts on these women were chilling and ranged from exhaustion, isolation, and hopelessness; to being brutalised and wounded, suffering miscarriages, poverty, feeling a loss of identity and suicide ideation, hypervigilance; and homelessness.”

The Women’s Aid report stresses that, while it is encouraging and important that more women are speaking up and reaching out for support, every system they are accessing is “creaking at the seams”.

Benson said: “Aside from the horrific and often long-lasting impacts of domestic abuse, victims/survivors often face many other challenges. The court systems, and in particular, the District courts are under pressure, creating lengthy, protracted, and traumatising delays for women involved in legal proceedings.”

The cost-of-living and housing crises also exacerbated the toll on women and families affected, with Women’s Aid noting that promised reforms in the government’s Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence “cannot come quickly enough” but must be properly resourced to avoid failure. 

It means that while progress has been made in heightened public awareness on domestic abuse and its effect on victims, Benson questioned whether the group can “confidently say that when they do come forward, they will get all the support and protection they need”.

According to the report, the majority of women at 84% were abused by a current or former male partner.

Among the total number who contacted Women’s Aid, 58% of women said they were abused by a current partner; 26% ex-male partner; 10% of women were abused by a man who was not an intimate partner or ex-partner; and 6% of women disclosed abuse by a female abuser.

There were a total of 33,990 disclosures of abuse against women and children, including 28,578 disclosures of domestic violence including coercive control against women.

A large majority – 20,851 – were emotional abuse, while there were 4,509 accounts of physical abuse, 2,290 economic abuse and 928 sexual abuse. 

A further 5,412 disclosures were made of child abuse in the context of domestic violence.

The full report, which is being launched later today in Dublin, can be read here.

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