Domestic Violence in Ireland Today


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“… one in five Irish women who have ever been in a relationship experience physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse.” (Margaret Martin, Director Women’s Aid)

The recent launch of the annual statistics report for 2010 by Women’s Aid on domestic violence serves once more to highlight the continuing abuse inflicted on so many women in Ireland by their partners.

The prevalence of domestic abuse has been well documented both internationally and in Ireland. Research undertaken by Women’s Aid in Ireland found that 95% of young women and 84% of young men claimed to know someone who had experienced abuse. This abuse ranged from violence and harassment to being followed, forced to have sex or being struck by a boyfriend. In most instances, the victims were women. Shockingly, 1 in 4 young women knew someone who had been forced to have sex.

These Irish figures were recently corroborated by the studies in England which showed that many young girls experience a significant level of abuse, verbal intimidation and misogyny in their schools. According to the UK Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, the threat of sexual assault, stalking and domestic abuse is greatest for women between the ages of 16 and 19. As Starmer warns, this situation risks creating a “whole new generation of domestic violence.”

When domestic violence occurs, the situation is often made worse for the victims by a feeling of having to face this abuse alone, as they are unaware as to where they might get help. This sense of isolation can be further aggravated by jeering partners who mock them by telling them that there is no point their confiding in anyone, as they would not be believed anyway. According to Women’s Aid, one third of women never relate their experiences to anyone and try to survive – as well as protecting their children in many instances – as best they can on their own.

“Living outside the Law”

Women’s Aid’s statistics for 2010 showed that 13% of callers had suffered abuse at the hands of their current non-married partners. This is a serious concern, given the current legal situation, as a large number of these women will not be able to access Domestic Violence Orders if, for example, they have never lived with their partner, even if they have a child in common. A further 10% had been subjected to abuse from a former non-married partner and once again many of these women might find themselves ineligible for protection under the Domestic Violence Act 1996.

For many women, the termination of their relationship is no deterrent to their abuser. Roughly one fifth of women continue to suffer abuse, be stalked and harassed by their ex-partner. In many instances, women are hounded by their former partners who frequently avail of mobile phones to send them explicit texts and calls threatening to assault or even murder them.  Social networking sites are also being used to an ever greater extent in a similar manner.

Many women can also find themselves increasing the risk of further violence and abuse when they turn to the legal system for protection.  If the woman’s application for a Safety and Protection Order is refused, she may well find herself placed at increased risk of abuse from her abusive partner. Even when they are granted, these orders might result in aggravating her risk if the abuser decides to ignore the order or because he has been infuriated by her action. Indeed, even when an order is granted, the woman might have to continue living with the abuser.

In effect, Ireland has failed to live up to the guidelines issued by the UN on domestic legislation, through its failure to provide adequate protection for the victims of domestic abuse resulting from an intimate relationship, irrespective of their particular relationship and/or marital status.

Despite commitments on the part of the previous Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, to improve the legislation the only pre-election improvement was the extension of eligibility to same sex civil partners, now treated as spouses. The Programme for the current Government does include a commitment to ‘introduce consolidated and reformed domestic violence legislation to address all aspects of domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation in a manner that provides protection to victims’. In this respect, the Civil Law Miscellaneous Bill tabled by Minister Alan Shatter, which has a provision to extend the Domestic Violence Act 1996 to give legal protection – access to protective orders – to women with a child in common with their abuser who do not meet the cohabitation requirements, is a step in the right direction.

Early Signs

“Over 51% of the 166 women murdered in the Republic were killed by their partner or ex-partner. More chilling data from resolved homicide cases show that of the 39 women aged between 18 and 25 years who were killed since 1996, 53% were murdered by a boyfriend or former boyfriend.” (Margaret Martin)

In order to prevent such horrific outcomes, it is critical that the initial warning signs of domestic violence are recognised and tackled. As the 2005 National Crime Council 2005 report – Domestic Abuse of Women and Men – revealed, in almost two-thirds of reviewed cases, abuse had commenced before the relationship was two years old. A national survey on domestic violence showed that nearly 60% of the victims of severe abuse in intimate relationships had experienced it for the first time before they were 25.

Many older women who have suffered from domestic violence reported that there were early warning signs at the start of their relationships but that they were just put down – both by herself and friends – as emanating from their partner just being a bit too much into her. In order to help younger women, who are at risk, identify these warning signs and take appropriate preventative actions, Women’s Aid launched the 2in2u National Public Awareness Campaign on Valentine’s Day this year.

This groundbreaking campaign, made possible by funding received through COSC (the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence and supported by the Irish actress Charlene McKenna, aims at highlighting the issue of violence and abuse many young women experience in their dating relationships. This campaign was made possible by funding through Cosc.

In addition to highlighting how a controlling boyfriend’s attention can often be overwhelming at the early stages of a relationship and how it feels to be a young woman experiencing such behaviour, the 2in2u campaign is intended to help overcome the common view that abuse is the preserve of older and more established relationships, where women may have been married or living with their partner for a considerable period of time or with whom they might also have had children.

The 2in2u website also has a ‘relationship health check’ quiz that can help provide certain indicators as to the potential risk of domestic violence faced by women in relationships. Should a young woman feel uncomfortable or concerned about any aspect of her relationship with her boyfriend, she can call the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline (1800 341 900) or hopefully will feel encouraged to confide in someone she trusts.

For further information on the above, refer to


10 Responses

  1. Joe Kelly

    July 1, 2011 12:52 pm

    A chara

    While all the focus re the issue of Domestic Violence is on the women victims (and rightly so) there is hardly any discussion/mention about the male perpetrators and the small though significant work that is been carried out with them. I refer to the work of MOVE (Men Overcoming Violent Emotions ) and the SEDVIP (Sout East Domestic Violence Intervention Programme). Both these groups work with self declared women-abusing men in an effort to prevent future abuse of female partners. Abusive men attend a (usually) six-month group work intensive programme in which they are challenged and supported in changing their abusive behaviour. These are not counselling or therapy groups although there would be elements of both these disciplines involved There is also a very important ‘Partner Contact’ aspect to the work which is a useful check as to what is taking place in the ‘Men’s Group,
    Both of theses models of work are preventitive ones in that they operate ‘before the fact’ and attempt to prevent future abuse.
    The stated aim is the protection and safety of women and children.
    Visit Both web-sites for further information

  2. Justin Frewen

    July 1, 2011 4:08 pm

    Very good point Joe and thanks for raising it! I had a friend living in a co-op in London and there was a guy there working with men who had engaged in domestic violence. I agree with you that it is very significant work and would would be interested in doing a piece with you on this – I will contact you directly through your email.

    Thanks again for the comment!



  3. Portia

    May 13, 2012 8:03 pm

    As a survivor of domestic violence in Eire, I would like to point out that the secret courts- in camera rule keeps a lot of facts hidden.

    How many people are aware that Judges are taught to see all women as FEEBLE MINDED in family law courts?

    How many judges have ordered the female victims home to obey their abuser based on the Roman Catholic religion.

    Of course there are male victims of DV, but the majority are female. The males who tend not to be victims always come in with – like children ” what about us”?

    How many people are aware of probation services ordering victims not to discuss their cases with Refuge workers?- Oh yes

    How many people in Eire know of HSE supporting male perpetrators, because they are heads of the households?

    How many know social workers who can tell the victims how they will take everything off the victim, including her children, home, job, unless she obeys.

    How many people know that children who report DV and abuse can be given ECT to burn out memories of abuse, so they can then be placed with the perpetrator?

    How many people know that these courts, HSE, Probation services breach art 6 of human rights daily in these courts by not allowing clients to read the reports in front of the judge- with no chance to rebut.?

    Such is the reality of DV and how the system works in Eire.

    As a professional I was stunned to learn the truth of the inquisitional courts in Eire, and luckily for me I had experts from over the world to assist in the healing afterwards.

    I learned how women are seen in family law courts in Eire, who runs the courts, the quangos etc.

    I include a link to an article about Eire, DV,

    Lack of Transparency In Irish Family Law Leads To Breaches Of Human Rights.

  4. Portia

    May 13, 2012 8:13 pm
    For more than two decades, protective mothers from every state in the country (as well as overseas) have been ordered to turn their children over into the care, and even the custody, of the children’s abusive fathers. This occurs even when there is adequate evidence of child abuse, domestic violence, and other harmful behaviors on the part of the father. Courts claim to be doing this to ensure that both parents remain involved in their children’s lives after divorce or separation, but in fact, in most of these cases, precisely the opposite happens: mothers are denied any meaningful relationship, or even contact, with their children. In the meantime, male supremacist groups claim unfair treatment in the family courts, seeking shared or total custody in order to avoid paying child support and to maintain men’s traditional control over their partner and their children.

  5. Portia

    May 13, 2012 8:16 pm

    I also witnessed this too- with social workers, probation officers, judges all falling for the perpetrator- Incredible to watch when they are supposed to be professionals and DV experts…all conned in the same way as the victim- but they always ask- how did she fall for his charm? In the same way as they did.

    It is not only a perpetrator’s victims that are groomed (which would be considered emotional abuse), but the victims’ family and friends, the perpetrator’s own family and friends, and even public servants and medical professionals (in which case it is purposeful manipulation).

    The grooming of doctors, nurses, mental health carers, family support workers and other public servants is called “Institutional Grooming” and the perpetrator does it for the purpose of self-preservation.

    Institutional grooming refers to the manipulation of professionals who have contact with the victim, so that any allegations of abuse made by the victim are doubted or outright disbelieved.

    The targets of Institutional Groomers may include their victim’s General Practitioner, psychiatrist, psychologist, child health nurse, pediatrician, carers at a Family Day Care Facility, school teachers, counselors or therapists. The public servants targeted may be social workers, case workers, investigative officers or police officers employed by government departments such as the Department For Child Protection, the Police’s Family Protection Unit and the Department for Community Development. When done with enough finesse to be successful, institutional grooming ensures that any complaints alleged about the perpetrator are either disregarded outright, doubted and therefore not investigated thoroughly, or if acted upon, subsequently dismissed in a court of law.

  6. Portia

    May 13, 2012 8:21 pm

    The perpetrator in our case said it all as it is.

    “You will NEVER ESCAPE ME. The LAW is always on my side”

    He was 100% accurate.

    Because all professionals fell for his charm, he moved onto his next victim- a child at the time- simply because of the training/brainwashing of service providers to see all DV victims as liars ans women ones as feeble minded.

  7. Portia

    May 13, 2012 8:23 pm

    Oh and a victim can loose all her property to the abuser in separation proceedings- simply declare her a witch and off you go.

    The children who also report abuse will be reprimanded too by loosing their succession rights.

    I have it all in court documents in case anyone is in doubt.