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Around 57 people are ringing Ireland's main domestic violence helpline every day

Almost 4,000 calls were made to the charity reporting child abuse.

WOMEN’S AID SAW an increase of almost 5,000 calls to its national helpline last year as the organisation extended its call hours, its annual report 2016 found.

Callers to the helpline reported 16,946 instances of domestic abuse against women in 2016.

A further 3,823 disclosures were made reporting child abuse, including physical and sexual abuse.

2016 was the first year the charity provided the National Freephone Helpline on a 24/7 basis, resulting in an additional 4,910 calls which were responded to by the organisation.

A total of 96% of the callers to the helpline were female.

The report emphasises the impact that domestic violence in the home has on children, with child abuse often coming hand in hand with mothers being abused.

Margaret Martin, director of Women’s Aid spoke of the concern the organisation has about the numbers of children being directly abused and exposed to domestic violence.

“In 2016, women told us that their children were being hit, slapped, shouted at and called names, and in some cases, sexually abused,” Martin said.

Children have been told they will be killed alongside their mothers.  At times, the perpetrator of the abuse has deliberately targeted the children as a way to hurt both them and their mother.

The report said that putting an end to a relationship doesn’t always protect women and children from domestic violence. 26% of abuse reported to Women’s Aid last year was carried out by an ex-partner or ex-husband.

“It is heart-breaking to listen to women who are living in a constant state of fear for their children and themselves,” Martin said.

“This fear is heightened when women have to facilitate access to the children for the man who has been perpetrating domestic violence.  A father’s right to access should not outweigh a child’s right to safety.”

Child protection and safety should be prioritised in all custody and access proceedings. To do anything less is to fail women and children.

Martin outlined some of the various types of violence reported to the helpline, including: women being beaten with weapons, stabbed and cut with knives, being strangled and raped.

“We heard from women that their partners had raped them, coerced them into sex, had prevented access to family planning and some had explicit videos and images made and shared online without their consent,” Martin said.

Some women experienced miscarriages as a result of the assaults, while others were left with post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression.

The Women’s Aid 24 hour National Freephone Helpline is available seven days a week at 1800 341 900. Additional support and information can be found here.

Read: Call for ‘new girlfriend orders’ to be used against Irish domestic abuse offenders

More: ‘When I wasn’t taking a beating from my old man, I was taking a beating from my brother’

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