Domestic abuse victims "stabbed, spat on, punched, slapped, kicked and strangled"

Women's Aid received 22,341 reports of domestic abuse against women and children last year

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A shadow of a man with a clenched fist as a woman cowers in the corner in this posed photo | Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Women who have been the victims of domestic abuse are being urged to contact support services.

Women's Aid has said it received 22,341 reports of domestic abuse against women and children in 2015.

There were 16,375 disclosures of domestic abuse against women and 5,966 disclosures of child abuse, the organisations' Impact Report 2015 reveals.

The figures show that, on 970 occasions, women who contacted them disclosed that abusive partners threatened to kill them, their children and their families.

There were 579 disclosures of assaults with weapons, threats with weapons and being strangled and smothered.

The organisation's figures show 81% of abusers of women were intimate male partners or ex-partners.

Some of the cases included a woman having boiling water poured on her, and a mother being punched in the face as she drove a car with her kids in the back.

Amy, speaking under a false name, explained how the violence grew into her relationship.

And she said talking to Women's Aid really helped.

Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid, says: “In 2015, women told us that they were kept prisoner in their own homes, cut with knives, stabbed, spat on, punched, slapped, kicked, held down and strangled and beaten with household items with many women disclosing that they were beaten during pregnancy."

"Women told us that they were constantly verbally abused, belittled, criticised, blamed and stalked and harassed, including online, both during the relationship and after leaving."

Strangulation or choking is a common form of control used to instill fear and terror, according to Women's Aid.

"Bare hands can be the most dangerous weapon. Twenty years of collecting data on female homicide in Ireland shows that in 46% of homicides no weapons were used with strangulation being the second highest mode of killing at 26%, while 20% were beaten," Ms Martin says.

The charity is calling on the Government to fund the extension of their national freephone helpline and allow it continue as a round-the-clock service.

It also says there is an urgent need for legislation to address "the gap in protection for young women in dating relationships."

"Good progress was made on strengthening domestic violence legislation by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald in July 2015 with her announcement of further protection for victims from intimidation as they go through the court system," Ms Martin explains.

"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.”

You can find out more about Women's Aid on their website, or can call their freephone helpline on 1800-341-900.