The following is a not-at-all comprehensive list of things that are not considered a crime in Ireland (if the person doing them to you is your partner or ex partner):
- Refusing to get you medical attention when you need it
- Deliberately embarking on a campaign of brainwashing to break you down and erode your self worth
- Leaving you sick without food or water for more than 24 hours
- Belittling and mocking you for your health issues
- Stopping you from seeing your friends and/or family
- Hacking into your accounts and spying on you
- Trying to turn your children against you
- Extorting money from you by coercion
- Coming into your house without your permission
- Going through your belongings
- Leaving photographs of themselves in your bed
- Sending abusive texts or emails
- Using children to hurt/control you (by not attending to their needs when in their care, refusing to sign permission slips/passport applications/H.S.E forms etc)
- Spreading malicious lies about you
- Reading your texts and emails
- Lurking round your property and looking through your back windows in the morning
- Using jointly owned assets (property etc) as a means to control you
- Not allowing you any money or taking all the money without your knowledge or permission
- Sabotaging your contraception
- Not allowing you to have an abortion if you want one
- Neglecting the children when they are in his care
- Not allowing you any time to yourself
- Not allowing you to work
- Making you keep a diary of what you do every minute of the day
- Using their financial means and your lack of to control you
- Deliberatley stripping you of your sense of identity
- Threatening to take your children off you
- Threatening to harm your children and or pets
- Threatening to kill themselves in an effort to control you
All of the above examples I’ve taken from my own experience and those of the many women* I’ve supported after leaving abusive relationships. Many of these examples were cited in dealings with domestic abuse services and Gardai and the victim was told they had no case against the abuser. They are just some of the techniques used by abusive people to emotionally abuse others. I call it psychological torture, a brainwashing that happens over time that slowly but surely erodes the sense of self. This connection to the man’s needs creates a binding dynamic that makes it extra difficult for women to leave. Their victim’s sense of self is so eroded and they are so brainwashed into putting him first that even after leaving the most awful of relationships they are still thinking of and worried about the ‘poor’ man they’ve left. A lot of the work I do is helping women to reclaim their sense of self and to learn to put themselves and their needs first.
If you are a victim who has suffered emotional abuse constituting any of the above list (or other emotionally abusive actions), there are a few countries in the world that consider that treatment of you a crime. The U.K, France and Canada all consider emotional abuse to be a crime, as does the the U.N and domestic abuse service providers who work with abused women. Given the long term affects on the victim are the same regardless of the type of abuse perpetrated, why is it that most countries (including Ireland) only recognise the physical body as capable of being ‘abused’?
According to a U.N report on violence against women,
“Forty-three per cent of women in the 28 European Union Member States have experienced some form of psychological violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.”
43%. That is nearly half the female population of Europe that has been a victim of a type of abuse that is considered a criminal act in several first world countries and that is every bit as harmful to the victim as physical violence.
In Ireland, domestic abuse is not even seen as a crime, as Jane Ruffino points out in her excellent piece on the subject. A woman in Ireland whose partner or ex partner is doing any of the things on the list above has no legal recourse to get him to stop. Yet the list above contains actions that are considered warning signs if you are an expert in domestic abuse. And as we know, domestic abuse often ends only when the woman is dead.
Data on domestic abuse is not even collected in Ireland. Perhaps the Irish government thinks it can put it’s head in the sand as to the scale of the problem. That Gardai were grossly under reporting domestic abuse figures came to light when the Northern Irish Police released their report detailing more than 29,000 domestic abuse incidents. When this figure was compared with 3678 incidents reported by Gardai the same year people started to question the validity of the Irish figures. Since Ireland has nearly 3 times the population of Northern Ireland our figures should’ve looked more like 87,000. But then I suppose figures like that might require some kind of action on behalf of the Irish government.
According to the U.N less than 10% of women report physical, emotional or sexual crimes against them to the Police. If we are to assume that the Irish figures should be more like 87,000 and that that is representative of the 10% who report, we would be looking at 783,000 women in Ireland currently or previously being a victim of abuse (excluding child abuse). That roughly equals one sixth of the Irish population. Add that to the one in four who have been abused as a child and you have a country with a massive abuse problem. A country that doesn’t record domestic abuse figures and has a horrific history of covering up (and enabling even) child abuse.
As the government in Ireland seems disinterested in knowing how many of it’s citizens have been abused, perhaps some monetary figures would incentivise them to care. The link between metal health and trauma has been widely reported on, and the cost of mental health problems to the Irish economy is 3 billion a year. While some mental health problems are physiological, research shows that a lot of mental health problems stem from trauma. There are potentially 783,000 women in Ireland who have or are currently a victim of domestic abuse (excluding child abuse statistics). Some of these women have children who have also been exposed to if not abuse itself then the aftermath of experiencing abuse. These women have friends, family and work colleagues who will similarly be exposed and perhaps affected. That is a lot of potential mental health issues.
If we cared about abuse (if we cared about women) we might know what the actual figure of the economic cost of domestic abuse is. I’m not an economist, so I can only talk about the human cost. The human cost of living in a country that doesn’t view someone psychologically torturing you, denying you healthcare, tricking you into getting pregnant, threatening you, stalking you, lying about you or using your children against you as a crime worth prosecuting. A country that doesn’t even bother to collect data about the abuse you are receiving. And I have to ask, what kind of country accepts this behaviour as socially and legally justifiable?
NOTE ON ACTIONS: You can write to, phone or email your TD about the Domestic Violence Bill and ask for:
- Domestic abuse to be made a criminal act.
- Data to be collected by the Gardai on domestic abuse.
- Emotional abuse to be included as a crime.
- The name to be changed to ‘Domestic Abuse’ to encompass all types of abuse, including those that aren’t physical.
*I’m speaking of women in this piece as they are the most affected by domestic abuse and I have only worked with women survivors, however men can of course be victims of abuse as well.