Tánaiste: Little has changed in relation to domestic abuse since I was social care worker 30 years ago

RTÉ presenter Clare Byrne, Women's Aid director Margaret Martin, and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald launch the Women's Aid Impact Report 2015.

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said little has changed in relation to domestic abuse since she worked as a social care worker 30 years ago.

“When I started working 30 years ago as a social worker in Dublin and then in London, I came across my first cases [and] experiences of child sexual abuse and domestic violence. I still remember the shock and the horror that I felt,” said Ms Fitzgerald.

“When I went on to become chair of the National Women’s Council of Ireland I thought that as time went on, the situation would change, as women became more empowered, as we spoke about these things in public, as education services got better, that the incidences of perhaps both child sexual abuse and domestic violence would decrease.

“I think that was probably my expectation — that if you did the right things and if the organisations that were out there, supporting women and children, were empowered to do what the likes of Women’s Aid have been doing, that the situation would change and I’m sure that you, like me, when you see the Impact Report, are appropriately shocked at how terrible the situation remains and how many incidences of domestic violence and child sexual abuse remain,” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald was speaking yesterday at the launch of Women’s Aid’s annual Impact Report. She described the fact that almost half of domestic abuse incidences happened in marriages as a wake-up call for society.

“What we see is that for the women who contacted Women’s Aid in 2015, marriage remained the most common context for domestic violence and I think we are often in denial about that,” said Ms Fitzgerald.

“Forty-two percent of women who were abused were in marriages, another quarter were abused by ex-husbands or ex-partners, that’s a real wake-up call I think for Irish society, to look again at the issue of domestic violence and to interrupt it and to support the women who are the victims and support the services.”

Ms Fitzgerald made particular reference to the impact of financial abuse on a victim.

“There was a time when people didn’t actually believe there was such a thing as financial abuse. I heard Margaret [Martin, director of Women’s Aid] on Morning Ireland

earlier today, talking about the manifestations of that, which can be completely controlling and abusive,” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald said we need to educate society to prevent abuse.

“You keep thinking that the information campaign of the generation before or the decade before has actually worked and then you find that actually it is about doing it again and again and again and continuing the education and continuing the empowerment, continuing the training.

So it is an ongoing challenge for our society,” she said.


  • In Ireland, 60% of abuse starts before the age of 25.
  • 42% of reported abuse occurred within a marriage.
  • 55% of women murdered in Ireland(1996-2016) were killed by their partners or ex-partners.
  • 81% of abuse disclosed in 2015 happened in an intimate relationship.
  • 12% of Irish women and girls over the age of 15 have experienced stalking, with 50% being stalked physically and online.
  • There were 1,602 disclosures of financial abuse in 2015.
  • Emotional abuse can include being controlled, manipulated, being isolated from family and friends, name-calling, being blamed for the abuse. Other incidences can include being woken at night causing sleep deprivation or being accused of being a bad parent or partner.
  • Physical abuse can include being beaten, bitten, spat at, thrown, kicked, threatened with a weapon or household item, or being locked in the house or car.
  • Sexual abuse can include being drugged and raped while unconscious, being forced to carry out painful or humiliating sexual acts, or feeling you cannot say no to sex without fear.
  • Financial abuse can include having your salary or welfare payments controlled, being left with debt in your name as the abuser is not paying the mortgage, or bills taken out in their name, being left without resources as the abuser has spent the household income.
  • There were 1,400 calls made to the Women’s Aid national free-phone helpline at night, in the first few months of it going live.
  • Of the 5,966 reports of child abuse made to Women’s Aid in 2015, 5,582 were disclosures of emotional abuse and 281 of the disclosures related to physical or sexual abuse by the same person as the mother’s abuser.
  • 35% of calls to the helpline in 2015 came from within the greater Dublin area; 31% of the calls came from outside of Dublin; 34% of callers did not disclose a location.
  • 97% of the callers were female and 3% were male.
  • 27% of the callers to the helpline were from migrant women in 2015.
  • The telephone service facilitated 176 calls using interpreters in 2015.

— Joyce Fegan

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