Women’s Aid in call to address gap in legal protection for young women

Margaret Martin
Margaret Martin

Women’s Aid, the national domestic abuse support service, has called on Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to extend draft domestic violence legislation to cover young women in dating relationships.

The group today launched its Impact Report for 2015, detailing a total of 12,041 contacts with women through its national helpline and Dublin-based support services.

According to the report, the group heard 16,375 disclosures of domestic abuse in 2015 and 5,966 disclosures of abuse of children.

Speaking after its launch, director Margaret Martin called for the Government to address a gap in legal protection for young women in dating relationships.

Ms Martin said: “Dating abuse is a significant issue for our frontline support services. Research has shown that while young women can be at even higher risk of abuse in a relationship than their older counterparts, there is low recognition of controlling and coercive relationship behaviour among young women.

“With the popularity of social media, young women are open to a host of new and insidious forms of abuse facilitated by new technologies and communication channels.

“Good progress was made on strengthening domestic violence legislation by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, T.D., in July 2015 with her announcement of further protection for victims from intimidation as they go through the court system. Yet this draft bill did not extend legal protection to young women in dating relationships who are not living with their partners nor have a child in common with them.

“There exists an opportunity to close this gap. This Bill was not brought into law during the lifetime of the last Government and this legislation remains at draft stage. With a new Government and a new Dáil, we urge the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, to grasp this opportunity to extend cover young women in dating relationships in the draft legislation.”