Young women are at heightened risk of online abuse from a current or former intimate partner during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Women’s Aid.
The charity noted with alarm reports from other jurisdictions suggesting a surge of image-based sexual abuse since last March as it launched a campaign to highlight the fact that cyber-harassment and image-based sexual abuse are now crimes in Ireland.
Its #TooIntoYou advertising campaign also focuses on the signs of unhealthy relationships and encourages young people to reach out for support.
Women’s Aid says research it has carried out shows one in five women aged between 18 and 25 experience intimate relationship abuse including emotional, physical and sexual abuse, with half of the young women abused by a partner experiencing online abuse including having intimate images taken and shared without their consent.
While it welcomed law changes making image-based sexual abuse and other forms of cyber-harassment a crime, it said “much more needs to be done to fully protect young women”.
“We have, quite rightly, been focused on those for whom home is not safe during Covid-19, because the pandemic has made homes where women and children are in close proximity to their abusers an acutely high-risk environment,” the charity’s chief executive, Sarah Benson, said.
“However, we need to remember that you do not need to be living with a partner for them to target and abuse you when this can be achieved through digital and online means. The abuse can beam right into your home. This kind of abuse can disproportionately impact young adults.”
She pointed out that online abuse “can be devastating and all-consuming given the always-on nature of life online”.
She stressed “that these actions are now crimes, whether done to cause intentional harm or if the perpetrator is simply reckless of the havoc they may bring to another innocent person’s life.”
Women’s Aid can be reached at its 24-hour national freephone helpline at 1800-341900.