Dating abuse has become a major issue in Ireland, particularly among younger women, with many feeling unsafe in their relationships, Women's Aid has said.
The national organisation that has been working since the 1970s to help women affected by domestic violence and their children, has launched a new campaign, #TooIntoYou, which aims to help women affected by dating abuse, stalking and the 'darker side' of relationships.
"Dating abuse is a significant issue for our frontline support services and research has shown that while young women can be at even higher risk of abuse in a relationship than their older counterparts, it can be difficult for them to see what is happening to them as abuse," commented CEO of Women's Aid, Sarah Benson.
She pointed to EU research which shows that one-quarter of women in Ireland have experienced physical and sexual abuse, while 39% of women aged between 18 and 29 have experienced emotional abuse by a partner.
"A stark reminder of this risk is that one in every two women aged between 18 and 25, who were killed in Ireland since 1996, were murdered by their boyfriends or exes," Ms Benson said.
Recent new laws under the Domestic Violence Act 2018 mean that women experiencing abuse in dating relationships can apply for legal protection from that abuse. However, Women's Aid believes that many young women are unaware of these changes, or do not know how to get the protection and support that they need.
As part of the #Too Into You campaign, Women's Aid is distributing its new The Law is On Your Side guide and is also launching its instant messaging service to provide support online.
"Our hope is that in calling attention to the darker side of relationships, that the campaign will have a high impact. We are asking what part of love is abuse?" Ms Benson said.
Women's Aid has also expressed concern about the "slow pace of political action to address the harmful use of technology in intimate relationships".
"We are calling on whoever forms the next government to immediately address the need for a real legal solution to issues like image-based sexual abuse, often incorrectly referred to as ‘revenge porn'. Until this happens, young women remain unprotected by law," Ms Benson insisted.
She appealed to young women who may be feeling unsafe or are worried about their relationship, to contact the organisation for support.
"You are not alone in feeling something isn't right with your relationship. Women in dating relationships contact Women's Aid every day because they are afraid of their partners.
"Your partner does not have the right to control and abuse you. You should not have to worry about how he will react to what you do. Dating abuse is wrong and no one deserves to be threatened, beaten or be in fear for their safety," Ms Benson said.
Anyone with concerns about their relationship can talk to someone in confidence on Women's Aid's new instant messaging support service here. It is available from 7pm to 10pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
You can also call the 24 hour national helpline on 1800 341 900. Calls are free of charge.
The Law is On Your Side guide can be downloaded here and the 10 danger signs of dating abuse can be viewed here.
The #TooIntoYou campaign runs from February 14 until March 8.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.