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New research suggests 98% of women in Northern Ireland have experienced at least one form of violence or abuse in their lifetime, with half (50%) experiencing this before they were 11 years old.

The ‘Every Voice Matters! Violence Against Women in Northern Ireland’ report from Ulster University was commissioned by the Executive Office and launched at an event today by Head of the Civil Service, Jayne Brady, alongside a report by Queen’s University Belfast. Both reports have been commissioned to inform the ‘End Violence Against Women and Girls’ strategy, which is currently out to consultation.

Making for a stark read and based on responses from more than 540 women, the Ulster University report has found seven out of 10 of those surveyed experienced some form of violence or abuse in the last 12 months.

Other findings of the report include:

  • The worst experience of violence or abuse was most commonly committed by stranger (29%), however often the perpetrator was known to the victim (romantic partner 23%; friend or acquaintance 19%) and occurred in their own home (26%);
  • Participants reported a broad range of experiences of forms of violence and abuse with harassment or sexual harassment the most commonly reported type of abuse;
  • Overall, only 1/3 of the participants felt able to speak about, or report, the violent incident that had occurred with shame and embarrassment the greatest barrier to reporting.

Carried out in partnership with IMPACT Research Centre (part of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust), the Ulster University research has come at a time when Northern Ireland is considered one of the most dangerous regions in Europe for women.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Susan Lagdon, research lead and lecturer in Psychology at Ulster University, said:

“We spoke with and surveyed women from across Northern Ireland to get a better understanding of the violence they face and we are indebted to every woman who has shared their experience, insight and recommendations for the future.

“The research findings demonstrate the extensive nature of violence against women and girls living in Northern Ireland as they are exposed to a variety of harmful behaviours from childhood right through to adulthood with implications for their mental health and social functioning. The evidence from this report and many others demonstrate that we need to respond now, we have a duty of care to ensure that this issue no longer remains behind closed doors nor the repeat item on the agenda for change.”

Quotes from women who participated in the research

“I think really even, looking at wider society, unfortunately you don’t need to turn on the news very often to hear the sad outcome of violence against women. And it’s horrific, obviously, women losing their lives. And I think that doesn’t even touch the surface in terms of maybe women that don’t report.” 

“Worldwide, women are at risk regardless of where they go. Whether that’s school, whether it’s work, whether they are just taking a walk around a local park or walking to the shop, whatever they are doing. Walking round town, out for a night out, any situation that a woman is in. Even out driving alone in the car. These are situations. At any point where women are on their own, is opportunity. A risk for violence”.

Speaking at today's event, Head of the Civil Service, Jayne Brady said:

“These reports shine a light on the extensive nature of violence against women and girls and show too many lives have been blighted.

“They remind us all that the violence, harm and abuse inflicted on women and girls has far reaching repercussions, including significant impact on our men and young boys and that we all have a role to play in bringing about the change that is needed to improve the lives of women and girls in our communities, our workplaces, in our sports clubs, schools, colleges, our streets and in our homes.”

If you’d like to find out more about this research and to read the report, visit here.