By Staff Reporter
Encouraging young women to know the difference between safe and sinister behaviour in their dating experiences is the goal of a new campaign by Women’s Aid in time for Valentine’s Day.
The 2in2u Relationship Health Check explores subtle forms of control in relationships that can be warning signs of further abuse.
“Dating abuse is a significant issue for our frontline support services,” says Women’s Aid director Margaret Martin. “Research has shown that while young women can be at even higher risk of abuse in a relationship than their older counterparts, there is low recognition of controlling and coercive relationship behaviour among young women.
“We know that one in five women in Ireland experience abuse in relationships and in a national survey on domestic abuse in Ireland, almost 60 per cent of those who had experienced severe abuse in intimate relationships first experienced it when they were under the age of 25.”
Martin adds that “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.”
The 2in2u campaign is supported by Irish model and journalist Vogue Williams, who explained that dating abuse “is about control and stealing someone’s identity so they have nothing left to themselves. To anyone in a similar situation, you are not alone. Women’s Aid can help.”
Women’s Aid cites a recent EU wide study on violence against women that shows 12 per cent of Irish women and girls over the age of 15 have experienced stalking, with half of them being stalked both physically and online by a partner or ex.
The national charity supporting women experiencing domestic abuse says it is hearing more and more from women about various forms of digital abuse and stalking where technology is being used by abusive boyfriends and ex-boyfriends to monitor and control women, particularly younger women.
This can include bombarding with phone calls and text messages, many of them threatening violence, as well as demanding access to email and social media accounts.
Some women have also been victims of malicious rumours on social media, or even been filmed without consent – sometimes during sex – and seen the images or videos uploaded to the internet for blackmail purposes.
These incidents, commonly known as ‘revenge porn’, represent a growing problem for young Irish women – highlighted most recently over allegations that as many as 200 male students at UCD were sharing explicit images of women online without consent.
“It’s not revenge, it’s not porn,” says Martin. “It is abuse and this type of abuse is one of the deepest betrayals of trust by a boyfriend or ex.”
Women’s Aid is calling on the next Government to enact legislation to better protect women from digital abuse and stalking, and for a better understanding of the harmful and insidious nature of digital abuse.
“Young women who have never cohabited with their boyfriends fall outside the remit of the Domestic Violence Act,” adds Martin. “To fully protect young women from dating abuse, we need to recognise that abuse can feature within all intimate relationships, and make safety orders available to women who have never lived with their boyfriends.
“Until these changes are made, young women in dating relationships remain outside the law.”