The rise of sexual abuse in Ireland during the pandemic


The number of people reaching out to sexual abuse services has almost tripled since before the Covid-19 pandemic. 

By Aly McGrath

In 2020, recorded that they had 29,717 contacts with the organisation. This is a rise of 10,628 from 2018.  

WomensAid is an organisation that works to protect women and children from domestic violence. It offers support to those who have been affected by abuse and work towards receiving justice and social change. 

The number of contacts dropped slightly since the climax of the pandemic with it currently standing at 26,906 according to the National and International Statistics on  

Covid-19 was found to be one of the busiest years for organisations such as WomensAid. In 2020, Safe Ireland found that within the first six months of the pandemic 3,500 women and 600 children contacted the domestic violence service for the first time. This equates to 19 women and 3 new children every day.  

In a press release done by WomensAid on February 15th, 2021, the organisation said that “young women experiencing abuse risk are being left behind during the covid-19 pandemic. Reports from other jurisdictions indicate that instances of image-based sexual abuse have surged since last March.” 

In the same press release CEO, Sarah Benson talks of the dangers of online and digital sexual abuse. “We need to remember that you do not need to be living with a partner for them to target and abuse you when you can be achieved through digital and online means. This abuse can disproportionately impact young adults.” 

Sexual abuse online or in person can have disastrous effects on a person. 84% of young women have reported that they suffer anxiety, depression and low self-esteem whilst being isolated from family and friends as a result of the abuse. Other results have been reported, such as suicide ideation and hospitalisation due to physical injuries.  

“We cannot continue to stand over a situation where such a significant number of young women, many minors, are deeply harmed and traumatised at the hands of current and former intimate partners,” Benson explains.  

The organisation announced a new campaign early this year called the ‘Too Into You’ campaign. It provides a wide range of tools and resources for young people including a relationship health check quiz. This quiz checks for the signs of abuse in relationships and has information on legal protection and a guide to staying safe online. The organisation hopes that this campaign may help anyone affected by intimate relationship abuse or concerned about a friend or loved one who is at risk.  

“We encourage anyone who is anxious or worried about their relationship to reach out for support and remember if it feels wrong, it probably is.” says Benson.  

If you have been affected or know anyone at risk of any topic in this article, please call the WomensAid 24hr National Freephone Helpline on 1800 341 900 or contact their private chat rooms to receive support and advice.  

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