By: RTÉ's Della Kilroy

You might think you don't know someone that has been affected by domestic abuse but research suggests you probably do.

Close to 17,000 disclosures of domestic abuse against women were made to Women's Aid direct services last year and the charity says that more and more young women are coming forward in dating relationships. 

Domestic abuse includes physical, psychological, emotional, sexual and financial abuse and a study of over 1,000 young women by SHEMazing suggests that dating abuse affects one in three Irish women, with 60% thinking it was their fault.

Having just completed a two-part series exclusively for RTÉ Player, UPFRONT: Domestic Abuse, RTÉ's Della Kilroy went behind the statistics, examining the harsh reality for young domestic abuse survivors across Ireland.


Something I have often heard in relation to this issue is "well why doesn't she just leave".

For the women we spoke to there were many, many reasons including fear, emotional and financial abuse.

For one young woman the abuse began in college and even though she was verbally and physically abused she told me: "I didn't realise it was domestic abuse."

Some women also said they didn't think being slapped was abuse, or they presumed they needed to be hospitalised for the abuse to be severe. 

The 2in2u.ie website, created by Women's Aid to inform young women about dating abuse, has been visited over 72,400 times since its launch in 2011. So, more young women are becoming aware of the issue. 

But issues remain including isolation and the psychological impact abuse can have on young women.

As one woman told UPFRONT: "By the time the first hit came, I was already a shell of a person. When you see the psychological signs, don't ignore them. When it feels wrong, it is wrong."

Domestic, sexual and gender-based violence still remains vastly under-reported in Ireland.

There are also issues with the recording of domestic abuse data, gardaí have made improvements with the development of the protection unit but after serious recording issues and recent concerns by the Central Statistics Office we still have a long way to go in ensuring domestic abuse complaints are fully documented and dealt with. 

The Government recently announced that people who suffer violence in relationships, even when unmarried or living separately, will be able to get a safety order from the courts under newly-published legislation.

But many with experience say navigating the legal system was a complicated battle and online abuse and stalking remains a key concern.

In a national survey on domestic abuse, almost 60% of people who had experienced severe abuse in intimate relationships experienced the abuse for the first time under the age of 25.

I also spoke to a young male perpetrator of abuse for the two-part UPFRONT series.

He told me: "I was always under the impression that men don't show emotions … It started bothering me and I exploded."

After he assaulted his girlfriend, he said he "couldn't believe he became that person … Without the help and support, it could very easily happen again."

While there is never an excuse for domestic abuse it seems to me we need to also work on prevention as well as supporting survivors, and this means trying to tackle the root cause of some of these issues including examining gender roles and stereotypes in our society.

We are beginning to teach young women about sexual violence in schools and colleges in Ireland, so why not extend this reach to include information about all kinds of abuse? So that both young women and men are aware of their rights and the supports available.

Without fully knowing the extent of the complex issue and until all victims can fully recognise the abuse, it is hard to protect some of the most vulnerable people in Irish society.

You can view the two-part UPFRONT: Domestic Abuse series on RTÉ Player.

If you have been affected by any of these issues you can freephone Women's Aid on 1800-341-900, Amen on 046-902-3718 or visit 2in2u.ie