Opposing violence against women

On November 25, the International Day Opposing Violence Against Women, the 16 Days of Action campaign will be launched both internationally and within Ireland. Over 2,000 groups in 150 countries worldwide will organise a range of events to raise public awareness of the staggering levels of domestic abuse against women. The campaign will conclude on 10 December, International Human Rights Day. By Justin Frewen.

One in 5 Irish women have suffered domestic abuse by a former or current spouse or partner. These statistics only account for those who have reported this abuse so the levels of abuse could be even higher. Moreover, on average a woman will suffer abuse 35 times before reporting it.

The shocking truth is that women are at greater risk of being abused by someone they know than any stranger. Over 51% of the 166 women murdered in the Republic were killed by their partner or ex-partner. At the global level, up to 76% of women suffer post-separation abuse.

Given such high levels of domestic violence, most of us will know someone who has been abused. However, many of us will remain unaware of this abuse as many victims feel unable to talk about their situation.

The number of women abused during pregnancy is particularly shocking. International studies reveal that 25% of women first experience domestic violence during pregnancy, sometimes even leading to miscarriages. Research in one Dublin maternity hospital found 1 in 8 of the women surveyed had been physically assaulted during their pregnancy. This abuse frequently continues after childbirth with some women being forcibly prevented from breastfeeding, beaten while they cradle their child or even raped.

One of the 16 Days major objectives is to raise awareness of domestic violence during pregnancy with healthcare professionals and women attending maternity services.

Domestic abuse not only creates a world of fear at home for the victim. It can also dramatically curtail their participation in society. Many domestic abuse victims find it impossible to remain in employment. The 2005 National Crime Council report found that approximately one in eight of those seriously abused were forced to quit their job while 40% took some time off work.

Many abused women feel Irish law provides scant protection. Although a quarter of all sexual violence directed at adult women is by current or ex-partners, there has only been one successful conviction under marital rape legislation since its introduction 19 years ago. Ireland fails to meet UN guidelines for domestic violence legislation, as it fails to cover all those who are or have been in an intimate relationship, irrespective of their relationships and marital status.

There is an urgent need for these legislative gaps to be dealt with so that no perpetrator of abuse can get off on a technicality and that no victim of abuse is left without a recourse to the law.

We all need to play a role in demanding an end to domestic abuse. In Ireland, Women´s Aid in close cooperation with a broad range of community and political pressure groups, rape crisis centres, domestic violence support services and other individuals in Ireland use the 16 Days Campaign to further public knowledge and awareness of domestic abuse in Ireland.

The 16 Days of Action Campaign

The annual '16 Days of Action´ campaign concentrates on raising awareness of domestic abuse at the national and local levels. By combining active engagement at the community level through a variety of events, exhibitions, public actions and debates as well as involving the media and local elected representatives, we can help ensure positive political and social change to make women safer. The 16 Days of Action help improve the visibility of domestic abuse amongst the general public, provide hope to women who are suffering and encourage the introduction of ways to bring the perpetrators of abuse to account.

This year´s Women's Aid 16 Days campaign will focus on solidarity with the one in five women affected by domestic violence and provide an opportunity for individuals and groups to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women by:

• Making women safer in their own homes

• Highlighting the nature and prevalence of violence against women

• Raising awareness of violence against women as a human rights issue

• Showing solidarity among women around the world

• Promoting women's leadership

• Lobbying government

• Strengthening local work to tackle violence against women


At 11am on Thursday 25th November 2010, thousands of balloons will be released in solidarity with the one in five women experiencing domestic violence in Ireland and globally. At the same time, as Women's Aid is releasing balloons outside Dáil Éireann, groups and individuals from Donegal to Kerry and Mayo to Louth will release balloons outside their community centres, town halls and in public squares. A photo collage of these actions will be produced and uploaded to the Women´s Aid 16 Days Blog.

On the same morning, Women's Aid will extend an invitation to all TDs and Senators to meet with them at Buswell's Hotel to discuss the issue of domestic violence. Politicians will be briefed on the campaign and current issues affecting women living with domestic violence. The public are asked to encourage their local TD to attend the Women's Aid event. Local TDs contact details are available at www.womensaid.ie/campaigns/16days.

For further information on the many events around Ireland during the 16 day campaign and the latest facts on violence against women, join the '16 Facts for 16 Days' email campaign at the following email 16days@womensaid.ie or online www.womensaid.ie/campaigns/16days.