Calls to Women’s Aid about abuse rises to more than 16,000

Tusla funding reduction of 20% feels like ‘new recession’, warns agency’s director

Testimonies from women who have survived domestic violence. Video: Women's Aid

Women’s Aid received more than 16,000 reports of domestic violence against women and nearly 6,000 of abuse of children last year, according to its annual report.

The agency's director Margaret Martin also said Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is to cut its statutory funding by 20 per cent.

She said this would affect the organisation’s plans to extend its national freephone helpline for those experiencing domestic abuse. A 24-hour service is due to start in January 2016.

“This recent severe cut by Tusla feels like a new recession for our organisation and we are still trying to come to terms with the impact on our work,” Ms Martin said.


A Tusla spokeswoman said the agency had prioritised access to services by vulnerable adults, children and families who experienced domestic violence and sexual violence in its 2015 budget.

“Tusla is committed to maintaining funding for the frontline services provided by Women’s Aid and has asked them to make savings of 20 per cent across the indirect services it provides, such as training,” she said. “Tusla is committed to working with the sector to develop sustainable and effective provision of training.”

Ms Martin also outlined some of the abuse detailed by callers.

“They were kept prisoner in their own homes, cut with knives, stabbed, spat on, punched, slapped, kicked, held down and choked and beaten with household items, with many women disclosing that they were beaten during pregnancy,” she said.

Sexual demands

Women were also “verbally abused, belittled, criticised, blamed and stalked and harassed, including online, both during the relationship and after leaving”. Others reported they had been raped, sexually assaulted and given “no option but to comply with their abuser’s sexual demands”, she said.

Ms Martin said the public response to domestic violence, including questions such as “Why don’t you just leave?”, was often damaging.

“This victim-blaming response feeds into the isolation that women feel. Very often the men who abuse women are absent or excused when we talk about addressing domestic violence,” she said. “The challenge for society is to treat the crime of domestic abuse as seriously as it deserves.”

In 2014, 97 per cent of callers to the helpline were female and 3 per cent male. Some 65 per cent who contacted the organisation last year were doing so for the first time.

Of the 16,464 reports of domestic violence, there were 10,653 of emotional abuse, 3,470 of physical abuse, 595 of sexual abuse (including 176 of rape) and 1,746 of financial abuse.


Women contacting Women’s Aid said 80 per cent of abusers were male intimate partners: 42 per cent were husbands, 6 per cent ex-husbands, 15 per cent partner and 17 per cent ex-partners. There were 5,786 specific reports of child abuse.

Some 35 per cent of calls to the helpline came from the greater Dublin area while 26 per cent came from outside Dublin. The remaining 39 per cent did not disclose a location.

Migrant women made up 323 callers, while 32 per cent of women using the Women's Aid One to One Support Service for the first time in 2014 were migrant women. Women's Aid: 1800-341900 (10am to 10pm, seven days a week)

Anthea McTeirnan

Anthea McTeirnan

Anthea McTeirnan is an Irish Times journalist