Quarter of Irish women have been victims of violence

Women’s full participation in social, economic and political life affected by fear, survey finds

Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Orla O’Connor, who was at the launch of the report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in Dublin today. Photograph: Alan Betson/ The Irish Times

Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Orla O’Connor, who was at the launch of the report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in Dublin today. Photograph: Alan Betson/ The Irish Times

Wed, Mar 5, 2014, 17:03

Irish women’s freedom of movement, as well as their full participation in social, economic and political life is being affected by their fear of assault and violence, advocates said today.

Several agencies held a seminar in Dublin to mark the publication of Europe’s biggest ever survey on violence against women. Figures emerging from the report were described as “shocking”, with such violence “pervasive and pandemic” across Europe.

The study by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) was based on face-to-face interviews with 42,000 women in all 28 EU member states. On average, 1,500 women in each member state were interviewed.

The survey suggested 26 per cent of Irish women (394,325 women in 2012) had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner or non-partner since the age of 15.

Almost one in three Irish women (31 per cent or 470,157 women) had experienced some form of psychological violence by a partner.

A total of 15 per cent of Irish women (227,495) had experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner and 8 per cent had experienced sexual violence by a partner or non-partner.

Some 57 per cent of Irish women compared to 39 per cent in Europe said they had reasons for not contacting the police following the most serious incidence of violence. This included that they dealt with the issue themselves or involved a friend, or felt it was a “family matter”.

Some 70 per cent did not contact any service or organisation following the most serious incident of violence, according to the report.

It also found some 52 per cent of Irish women said they avoided certain streets or areas for fear of being assaulted. This compared with 37 per cent of women in the other countries surveyed.

Nearly half of Irish women (48 per cent) and 65 per cent of female university graduates had experienced sexual harassment since the age of 15. In other European countries the figure was 55 per cent of all women and 69 per cent of university graduates.

Sharon O’Halloran, director of Safe Ireland, the national organisation of domestic violence services, said the survey confirmed we were “dealing with the tip of the iceberg” in Ireland.

She called on the Government to establish a high-level Cabinet sub-committee to address the “prevalence, complexity and poor response” to all forms of violence against women in Ireland.

Safe Ireland noted that while Irish prevalence figures were high, they were often below other European countries and European averages.

But it said organisations working with survivors of violence should see this as a “wake-up call” rather than any comfort, because it actually highlighted a lower level of disclosure by Irish women.