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How young women can recognise dating abuse and get help if they need it

Most women who experience severe abuse in intimate relationships first do so when they are under 25.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

WOMEN’S AID HAS launched an awareness campaign about safety orders for young women who are experiencing dating abuse. 

New laws brought at the start of the year under the Domestic Violence Act 2018 mean women experiencing abuse in dating relationships can now apply for safety and protection orders to protect themselves from an abusive partner or former partner.

The three-week #TooIntoYou poster and social media campaign will run from today  until 8 March, International Women’s Day.

It aims to inform young women about key danger signs of dating abuse and how to combat online stalking and digital abuse, as well as how to apply for an aforementioned order if needed. 

Signs of dating abuse include when a partner tells you he hates your friends and that you spend too much time with them; he texts constantly and gets angry when you ignore him; he tells you how to dress; he makes you feel guilty for not spending all your free time with him; he has a bad temper, is physically or sexually violent or threatens you. 

Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid, said dating abuse is a significant issue for the organisation’s frontline support services. 

“Research has shown that while young women can be at even higher risk of abuse in a relationship than their older counterparts, it can be difficult for young women to see what is happening to them as abuse,” Martin said. 

One in five women 

One in five women in Ireland experience abuse in relationships and a national survey on domestic abuse found that almost 60% of those who had experienced severe abuse in intimate relationships first experienced it when they were under the age of 25.

“A stark reminder of this risk is that one in every two women aged between 18-25 killed in Ireland since 1996 were murdered by their boyfriends or exes,” Martin noted. 

There have been 40 such deaths during this period. 

Martin said the campaign is being launched on Valentine’s Day because Women’s Aid wants to highlight “the hidden reality of many young women’s relationships at a time traditionally associated with love, romance and celebration”.

She noted how, after years of campaigning, the Domestic Violence Act 2018 “brought real and significant change for victims of domestic and dating abuse”.

Women’s Aid and other campaigners had consistently how a gap in the law meant that young women who never lived with their boyfriends could not avail of safety orders because of the cohabitation rule – something that changed under the new Act.

Concerns about ‘revenge porn’ 

Martin welcomed this progress but said Women’s Aid is “very concerned” at the slowed pace of the passing of a Bill introduced by the Labour Party in the Dáil last year that seeks to address the harmful use of technology, including in intimate relationships.

“We urgently need a real solution to issues like image based sexual abuse (also referred to as ‘revenge porn’),” Martin said. 

Since the #TooIntoYou awareness campaign began in 2011, there have been over 100,000 visits to the dating abuse website with the majority of visitors taking part in the Relationship Health Check.

Funding for the campaign was cut in 2015 and Women’s Aid relies solely on public support to develop and run the campaign. 

Any woman who is afraid of her partner or husband can contact the 24-hour Women’s Aid national freephone helpline on 1800 341 900. Women who feel they are in immediate danger, can get support here.

Men experiencing domestic violence can contact Amen via 046 902 3718 or online

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Órla Ryan

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