Women's charity says children of abused saw their mothers raped
Some children of abused women have seen them being raped, a leading charity has warned.
Women's Aid revealed the horrific aspect of domestic violence in its annual report after receiving a lmost 21,000 reports of physical and psychological attacks on women and children last year.
According to information volunteered to the charity, pregnant women reported being beaten and strangled, others suffered miscarriage because of an assault and some children were in the same room while their mother was raped.
"It is disclosed to our helpline and it's disclosed enough times for it to be a significant issue," said the charity's chief executive Margaret Martin.
Other women were raped by a partner or became victims of online abuse as explicit videos and images of them were made and shared without their consent, the Women's Aid report also revealed.
Some women were beaten with weapons, stabbed and cut with knives, called derogatory names, forced into debt or denied money, isolated from family and friends and had their safety threatened.
Women's Aid, which operated a national 24/7 helpline for the first time last year, said it took in 16,946 reports of domestic violence against women including:
:: 11,078 disclosures of emotional abuse of women, 3,502 disclosures of physical abuse, and 1,671 of financial abuse;
:: 695 disclosures of sexual abuse of women, including 316 rapes;
:: 411 disclosures from mothers that their ex-partners were using access visits to abuse them often in front or in ear shot of the children.
Women's Aid said it took in 3,823 reports of child abuse, including:
:: 183 reports of physical and sexual abuse against youngsters;
:: 82 reports of children being abused during access visits and 18 instances of child abduction;
:: 82 reports of children being directly physically, emotionally and/or sexually abused while on access visits with their fathers.
The charity said it wanted to highlight the strong links between child abuse and domestic violence and it called for greater recognition of the risk to children, especially during access arrangements with abusive fathers.
Ms Martin criticised Family Law proceedings and claimed that custody and access arrangements often disregard the impact of domestic violence on children and put a mother and children at continuing risk of abuse.
"A father's right to access should not outweigh a child's right to safety. Child protection and safety should be prioritised in all custody and access proceedings. To do anything less is to fail women and children," she said.
A quarter of the abuse reported to Women's Aid involved an ex-partner or ex-husband, and often during access, the charity said.
It called for the courts to consider the safety and well-being of any child when granting a barring order and to take interim measures to protect them.
It said experts should be made available to a court to professionally assess any threat an abusive father or partner poses to children and the impact of direct or indirect abuse, and that child contact centres should be set up around the country to facilitate safe, supervised access visits.
Ms Martin said research and experience of the charity's work has shown that the more severe a mother is abused, the higher the risk that a child will be attacked in the home.
"Domestic violence is a serious crime against women and children in Irish society but one that is hidden and minimised," she said.
"I am very concerned about the number of disclosures to Women's Aid of children being directly abused and exposed to domestic violence."