Women's Aid has recorded an increase of 55% in the number of reports of child abuse it received last year compared to 2011.

The organisation, which aims to stop domestic violence against women and children, is calling for round the clock access to legal protection for vulnerable women and children.

Its annual report shows that threats, abuse, intimidation and violence are a daily reality for thousands of women and children across Ireland.

The voluntary organisation is calling for 24/7 access to legal protection for vulnerable women and children.

There were 3,230 specific disclosures of child abuse to the Women's Aid Helpline last year, compared to 2,076 in 2011.

In addition, in 1,221 calls it was disclosed that children were present in the home where domestic violence took place.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Women's Aid director Margaret Martin said that as domestic violence was the most common context for child abuse, the safety of the mother and child should be of the utmost importance in custodial arrangements.

She said the voice of the child must be heard.

"There are children - their mothers are reporting to us that they are self-harming, they're wetting the bed, and they're having nightmares before they go on access visits.

"We are not against contact, but it has to be in a safe context", she said.