More than half of young women in abusive relationships were sexually assaulted

Irish women aged 18-25 at high risk of intimate relationship abuse, says Women’s Aid

Young Irish women are at high risk of intimate relationship abuse, according to new research from Women’s Aid.

More than half of young people aged 18 to 25 years old surveyed experienced, or know someone who has experienced, intimate relationship abuse, according to the new report. It found that women were far more likely to experience this type of abuse.

One in five young women who took part in the research reported that they were subjected to intimate relationship abuse. Out of these young women, nine out of 10 said they were emotionally abused, three quarters reported that they were sexually coerced, while more than half were sexually assaulted and 27 per cent were raped.

The research comprised a survey of 500 young people, in collaboration with Red C Research & Marketing. Four focus groups, two with young women and two with young men, were then conducted.

Out of the one fifth of young women who experienced intimate relationship abuse, one in two said they were slapped or shoved, and one in three reported that they were punched, choked or burned. More than half said they were stalked and/or harassed. Half of the young women first experienced this abuse when they were under 18.

One in 11 young men reported that they experienced intimate relationship abuse, and they were more likely to seek support.

Just under 30 per cent of surveyed young people did not believe that women were more likely to be victims of abuse.

The Women’s Aid report said that a “gender neutral” analysis of abuse was expressed in the focus groups, particularly amongst young men.

Women’s Aid said they found this particularly concerning as this contradicts established international evidence, including their own findings from this research.

Drug and alcohol misuse

It said 81 per cent of young people believed that drug and alcohol misuse “cause” someone to act abusively towards their partner. “Young men in particular reasoned that alcohol does not ‘suit’ or ‘agree’ with some people and this can lead to amplification of ‘bad traits’ in certain personalities,” the report said.

However, Women’s Aid said that alcohol and drug misuse are not root causes of abuse. “Even when using alcohol or drugs, abusers can still exercise control by targeting their partner specifically and not others,” the report said.

“One incredibly worrying finding is that almost one in three of the young women affected never told anyone about the abuse,” said Women’s Aid chief executive Sarah Benson.

“This is something we need to pay attention to, as it can have a severe and long-lasting impact for young women as they start to make their way in their world.”

She said more work needed to be done with both young men and women to ensure they are aware of the signs of abuse and they understand the causes.

Juliana Shiel, a survivor of intimate relationship abuse, said abusive relationships can make you feel trapped. “You can second-guess yourself and feel like you are going crazy. But this is not your fault.

“Young people need to know that no one has the right to make you feel anxious or scared in your relationship. All young people deserve to have healthy, loving, and respectful relationships.”

Women’s Aid can be contacted 24 hours a day on 1800 341 900