‘Alarming increase’ in physical and economic domestic abuse, says report

Women’s Aid received 40,048 disclosures of domestic abuse in 2023, highest ever recorded in charity’s 50-year history

The charity described as 'alarming' the 74 per cent increase in physical violence and 87 per cent increase in economic abuse since 2022. Photograph: iStock

Women’s Aid received its highest ever number of domestic abuse disclosures in its 50-year history last year while reporting an “alarming increase” in physical violence and economic abuse in the 12-month period.

The annual report for 2023 recorded 40,048 disclosures of domestic abuse against women and children, an 18 per cent increase compared with 2022 and the highest ever recorded since the charity’s inception in 1974.

Of the disclosures, 21,974 concerned emotional abuse, 7,851 were physical, 4,297 concerned economic abuse while 4,478 disclosures of abuse against children were made. A further 1,448 disclosures were sexual abuse.

It comes as nine women lost their lives in violent circumstances in 2023 bringing the total to 266 since 1996, according to Women’s Aid’s Femicide Watch.


The charity described as “alarming” the 74 per cent increase in physical violence and 87 per cent increase in economic abuse since 2022.

The vast majority of abuse (86 per cent) was committed by a current or former male intimate partner. A further 9 per cent of women were abused by a man who was not an intimate partner or ex-partner while 5 per cent of women disclosed abuse by a female abuser.

Women reported assaults with weapons, constant surveillance and monitoring, relentless put-downs and humiliations, the taking and sharing of intimate images online, complete control over all family finances, sexual assault, rape and being threatened with their or their children’s lives.

Women’s Aid described the impacts on these women as “chilling” and ranged from exhaustion and isolation to serious injury, suffering miscarriages, poverty, suicide ideation and homelessness.

Of the 2,603 women who contacted An Garda Síochána because of domestic abuse, 52 per cent found the gardaí helpful, while 48 per cent found the gardaí unhelpful.

Sarah Benson, chief executive of Women’s Aid, described the number and nature of disclosures made as “utterly appalling”.

“It is shocking that in our 50th year of service to women, we are still receiving record disclosures of domestic abuse,” she said, adding that the number of disclosures was “just the tip of the iceberg”.

“One in four women in Ireland is subjected to domestic abuse and there are also so many children, families and whole communities also impacted,” she said, adding that multiple forms of abuse were often combined, constituting coercive control.

Ms Benson added that fear, stigma and self-blame alongside “persisting social attitudes” to domestic violence prevented victims from coming forward.

“So many victims-survivors lack the information or confidence to contact specialist services, and about one-third will suffer in total isolation, telling nobody what is happening to them,” she said.

Although there had been increased resources for specialist domestic violence services, Ms Benson said this was coming from a baseline of “historic neglect”.

She said focus, co-ordination and continued investment were required at Government level to ensure the Third National Domestic Sexual and Gender Based Violence Strategy was fully implemented.

“At this very moment, there are many thousands of women and children living in fear of the person who should love, respect and care for them,” she said.

Jack White

Jack White

Jack White is a reporter for The Irish Times