Women are at increasing risk of being trapped in abusive relationships during the recession, a leading campaign group claimed today.
More than 15,000 women called the Women’s Aid helpline last year suffering from physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse at the hands of a partner.
And the support group warned that controlling boyfriends and husbands were making life even harder by withholding and threatening to withhold money.
Margaret Martin, Women’s Aid director, said vulnerable women were trapped amid fears of increased poverty, losing their home and the effect it would have on their children.
“Domestic violence is a huge problem within Irish society,” she said.
“This year we are particularly concerned about the impact of the recession on women experiencing domestic violence from their boyfriends, husbands and partners.”
“We know that economic difficulty does not cause domestic violence. It is a feature of Irish life during boom times and times of recession.
“But we hear from women living in abusive situations that their ability to escape domestic violence is being hampered by the recession.”
The Women’s Aid report revealed 1,900 women reported financial abuse last year.
Some women were denied access to the family finances, including money for food for themselves and children and the household bills, while abusive partners arranged all social welfare in their own name and debt in the woman’s name.
The group also received reports of forged cheques and women being forced to put the abuser’s name on the deeds of the house.
If a woman manages to escape an abusive relationship many continue to suffer because ex-partners then refuse to pay maintenance.
The Women’s Aid report revealed;
:: 15,158 incidents of domestic violence.
:: These included 9,101 cases of emotional abuse; 3,355 of physical attacks; and 1,900 of financial abuse.
:: Some 802 sexual assaults including 281 rapes within relationships were reported to the service.
:: Experts warned that women already suffering domestic violence do not normally disclose sex abuse.
:: 2,000 claims of child abuse were made to the helpline.
:: Examples included youngsters being forced to eat food off the floor; young children and babies being hit; threatened and actual physical abuse; attempted stabbings and children being pushed down the stairs.
Women’s Aid also detailed the abuse women suffered. Physical attacks included punches, kicks, women being gagged and beaten, held down and choked and lifted up by the throat and choked.
Some reported being severely beaten while holding an infant child and fighting off attempts to set them on fire or being severely bitten and having their hair pulled out.
Sex abuse, which is not normally disclosed to Women’s Aid, included reports of rapes and beatings with women being raped following childbirth; photos being taken of women naked and during sex without permission and in some cases being placed on the internet.
Women also reported being raped in front of their children.
Ms Martin said: “We hear from women who are beaten and raped while they are pregnant, often resulting in miscarriage.
“We hear from women who are forbidden to breast feed their child, who are raped following childbirth and women who are beaten while holding their baby.”
Emotional abuse ranged from threats to kill the woman, the children and her family or himself to the woman being followed everywhere, being constantly accused of having affairs.
Some women were effectively housebound as the abuser takes the car keys, steals or smashes phones or constantly monitors phone and online activity.