Over half of young women abused by a partner were under 18 when the abuse began, new data shows.
The report, compiled by Women’s Aid, finds as many as one in five women aged 18-25 have experienced some form of abuse by a current or former partner.
Some 51% of that figure first experienced abuse when legally a minor.
The report, based on a sample of 500 young people, describes how one in two abused young women have experienced online abuse — including taking, sharing, or threatening to share intimate images without consent.
It highlights the serious consequences of such abuse, including anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, as well as possible isolation from family and friends.
Meanwhile, some three in five young people have either personally experienced abuse, or know someone from the same age cohort who has done so by either a current or former partner.
The study, which has been compiled for the UN Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, adds that regulation and legislation is “urgently needed” to fight against such online harassment and the image-based sexual abuse that many young women experience.
The figures for young men experiencing abuse were significantly lower, with one in 11 reporting same.
Next Wednesday (25th Nov) we are hosting a seminar on intimate relationship abuse, including online abuse, against young women. International expert on Image Based Sexual Abuse @McGlynnClare is a key speaker. Register online today: https://t.co/7HNGGgG2BK #16Days #TooIntoYou pic.twitter.com/6ojeO06tAz— Women's Aid Ireland (@Womens_Aid) November 19, 2020
The data shows that Ireland has “particularly alarming” levels of intimate relationship abuse according to Sarah Benson, Women's Aid chief executive.
“We know that the abuse that takes place online can be particularly devastating given the always-on nature of life online,” she said.
“It is draining, can often feel inescapable and can be difficult to block a persistent abuser from making contact.
“It is not a reasonable solution to ask a young person being abused to opt out or switch off.
"This only isolates people ever more and they should never suffer or be further excluded because of the actions of the perpetrator.”
The vast majority of young women who have suffered abuse in relationships say that the experience has had a “severe” impact on them.
The Women's Aid report has found that some 84% of young women who have been abused by a partner experienced traumatic effects, such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
Others also reported experiencing suicidal ideation and hospitalisation due to physical injuries.
The report, compiled to mark the UN’s day for opposing violence against women, reveals that the majority of women in Ireland aged between 18 and 25 years either have experienced, or know personally someone who has experienced, such abuse at the hands of a partner.
In addition, more than half of those who have been abused first suffered at the hands of their partner before they turned 18 years of age.
The new data has emerged as a Garda investigation into the mass leaking of intimate pictures of Irish women has been launched, with the Government moving in tandem to propose hefty jail sentences of up to seven years for those found to have circulated such images.
Half of all abused women have suffered online abuse, said Women’s Aid, including the taking or sharing of, or threatening to share, intimate images without the subject’s consent.
“As a society, we cannot continue to stand over a situation where such a significant number of young women, many minors, are deeply harmed and traumatised at the hands of current or former intimate partners,” said Women’s Aid CEO Sarah Benson.
The charity said it is to launch a new campaign, via the hashtag #TooIntoYou, to “highlight the signs of unhealthy relationships and encourage young people to reach out for support”.
Ms Benson said intimate relationship abuse could mean a woman “dropping out of college or not being able to take up work, experiencing depression, anxiety, and attempting suicide”.
She said more than a third of young women experiencing such abuse had never told anyone about it due to “fear, stigma, and shame”.
“That is a very difficult and lonely place to be.”
Ms Benson added the report merely “scratches the surface” of what amounts to a “huge problem” for Irish society.
“We need regulation, we need legislation, we need more in-depth research and extensive education and awareness campaigns, including in schools,” she said.
“Most of all, as a community, we need to ensure responsibility lies with the perpetrator and to say loudly and clearly to anyone affected by intimate relationship abuse that yes, it’s abuse; it is never okay; it is not your fault, and you will be believed and supported.”