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Thousands of cases of women being beaten, choked, threatened with weapons and smothered in 2018

The charity is calling for greater protections within the law system for children in particular.

OVER 20,000 DISCLOSURES of domestic violence against women and children were made to Women’s Aid last year, with the charity calling for greater recognition of the risk to children during access arrangements with domestic violence perpetrators.

Alongside 16,994 disclosures of domestic violence against women made to the charity, there were also 3,728 disclosures of child abuse made, according to the organisation’s Impact Report for 2018.

Women’s Aid director Margaret Martin said in the report: “Behind these stark statistics, there are thousands of women who have shared their story with Women’s Aid… They tell us of their darkest fears and the impact the abuse is having on themselves and their children.”

It wants improved State interventions and protections, and said that the risk posed by a domestic violence perpetrator should be taken into account with measures put in place to protect children – including an assumption of no contact – until the child’s safety can be guaranteed.

2018 in brief womens aid

In all, there were 11,112 disclosures of emotional abuse. This included 561 disclosures of being abused online and stalking, and 898 threats to kill the woman, the children, her family or to self-harm.

There were 3,816 disclosures of physical abuse, including women being beaten, choked, being hospitalised, threatened with weapons and smothered.

Included within this were 141 disclosures of abuse while the woman was pregnant, with a number saying they’d experienced miscarriage because of the abuse. 

Furthermore, there were 526 disclosures of sexual abuse, and 1,540 disclosures of financial abuse made to Women’s Aid in 2018.

womens aid

A large majority of women – 84% – who contacted the service in 2018 said they were being abused by a current or former male partner. One in four (27%) were experiencing abuse from a former husband or partner.

Many women who contacted Women’s Aid said they were worried about protecting their children, the report said.

Its director Margaret Martin said: “It is heartbreaking to listen to women who are living in a constant state of fear for their children and themselves.

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.

The charity said that it received 483 disclosures of women and 255 disclosures of children being abused during access visits.

The Impact Report will be launched today alongside Minister for Children Katherine Zappone and the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Geoffrey Shannon.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Minister Zappone said that increased funding of €1.5 million to organisations dealing with domestic, sexual or gender-based violence would be made available this year. 

“The additional funding available this year is a stepping stone,” she said. “We are not quite there yet. But I do believe that we are on the road to achieving something better.

I hope that someday, we can live in an Ireland where all citizens – women, men, and children – are valued and respected without the fear of domestic and sexual violence.

In the conclusion of its report, Women’s Aid recommends that the Family Law system should consider the safety and well-being of any children when granting a barring order and take interim measures to protect them.

It also said that experts should be made available to the court to assess any threat posed to children and the impact of direct and indirect abuse on them. It also suggests that all staff in agencies that support victims of domestic violence be trained to understand the impact of abuse on women and children. 

Martin added: “By sharing their stories in their own voice, these courageous women challenge the victim blaming culture that exists in Irish society; they build an understanding of the impact of domestic abuse; and encourage other women to find their voice and to seek support.”

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Sean Murray

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