22 February 2001 Edition

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Teenagers' experiences of abuse


``I am ashamed about it and feel dirty.'' This is just one of the comments made by a young person in a study carried out for Women's Aid into young people's experience and responses to violence and abuse.

At Women's Aid conference was held in Dublin Castle last week to publicise the report, pop group B*Witched launched a poster campaign titled ``Tell Someone''. It is hoped that this will encourage young people to contact Women's Aid and the Rape Crisis Helplines. The posters are being distributed to schools and youth clubs throughout the city.

Women's Aid is committed to the elimination of violence and oppression against all women. Since 1974, it has offered information, support and services to women and their children who are experiencing male violence.

The research was conducted through questionnaires and focus groups with over 300 young men and women between the ages of 14 and 19 in four Dublin schools and one senior college.

The results showed confusion amongst young people about the meaning of rape, violence and consent. 19% of young women and 34% of young men did not think being forced to have sex is rape. The survey showed that 18% of women had been abused by a partner at some stage of their lives. 13% reported being subjected to mental violence. 10% had experienced physical violence, one third reported this during pregnancy and over a third reported attempts of strangulation and choking.

According to Denise Charlton, Director of Women's Aid:

``The findings of this research are not just alarming, they also indicate how, as a society, we are failing our young people. With limited sex and lifeskills education, and few support systems for young people, we are leaving young people to cope with these issues alone or with each other''

Every day, thousands of children witness violence against their mother by a male partner. When we consider that one in five women in Ireland experience violence within an intimate relationship with a man, and that 64% of children witness abuse and violence against their mother, we can begin to come to an understanding of the extent to which male domestic violence impacts on children and young people.

In a study of a 1,000 women who had been abused, 755 of whom had children, 70% of the abusive male partners had also abused the children.

The findings of the report show that young people have high levels of contact with harassment, abuse and violence, young people demonstrated a lack of clarity about definitions of rape, assault and harassment and had difficulty disclosing their experience of violence. The report also indicated that there is a high level of exposure to pornography amongst young men. Of the 94% of young men who had contact with pornography, three out of four accessed pornography on the Internet.

According to the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline, they receive over 8,000 calls a year, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre received 7,243 calls between June 1999 and June 2000, and there were 10,110 Garda call outs in 1999 to domestic violence incidents.

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