Women’s Aid says young women abused while dating should have access to barring orders
Law must also address online harassment
Legislation is urgently needed to allow younger women who have never lived with their partners to access safety or barring orders, Women’s Aid has warned.
Younger women in dating relationships are legally unprotected from domestic abuse, says the domestic violence charity. It also says domestic violence legislation must be extended to include cyber-stalking and online harassment.
The agency, which yesterday relaunched its 2in2u awareness campaign aimed at informing younger women of the danger signs of intimate abuse, says the current legislative framework leaves women who are not married to, living with, or, have a child with their partner, unprotected.
“While the law deals with the lived, real world, we have not conceptualised legislation to deal with the virtual world,” says Women’s Aid director Margaret Martin. “That is the world where younger people are engaging and it’s moving at a fairly frantic pace.
“We are increasingly seeing technology used to abuse women, especially among younger women.
“Many younger women think of domestic abuse as something that happens to older, married women. But dating abuse is a significant issue for our frontline support services.”
Warning signs“Research has shown that while young women can be at even higher risk of abuse than their older counterparts, there is low recognition of controlling and coercive relationship behaviour by young men, among young women.”
Women’s Aid wants younger women to think about their own safety when they engage with an intimate partner online or by text, and to know the warning signs of abuse.
Among the abuses being reported is one where intimate, private photographs are uploaded and shared, perhaps with messages inviting other men to rape or otherwise abuse the woman. “Women are also disclosing how they are bombarded with texts and calls often telling them, in explicit detail, how they will be attacked or even killed,” said Ms Martin.
“There were also instances where men harassed and stalked partners on social media or on their phones. We also hear from women whose boyfriends and ex-boyfriends had placed lies and false rumours about them on internet sites.”
Ms Martin said she hoped women would talk about the issues with friends and that mothers would talk to teenage and older daughters.
The agency is also calling for better legal protection for women being stalked and abused online in dating relationships.
Stalking“We recommend that a specific stalking offence be introduced, with a comprehensive but not exhaustive definition, including new forms of cyber-stalking, and that stalking be recognised as grounds for a safety order,” said Ms Martin.
“Women’s Aid urges the Government to make safety orders available to women who have never lived with their boyfriends. Until these changes are made, young women in dating relationships remain at risk.”
The 2in2u campaign is supported by the Irish Girl Guides which has 12,000 members.