News & Media

Women’s Aid report highlights need to pass Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill

25 November 2020

Statement by Senator Ivana Bacik
Seanad Group Leader and Spokesperson on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration

Today, Wednesday 25th November 2020, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Labour Party Spokesperson for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, Senator Ivana Bacik will speak alongside President Michael D Higgins, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and others at a webinar to launch new findings from Women’s Aid about the prevalence intimate relationship abuse as experienced by young people in Ireland. The report builds on Women’s Aid’s ‘Too Into You’ awareness campaign.

Speaking at the event at 12.30 today, she will say:

“The findings of the research conducted by Women’s Aid on intimate partner violence among young people in Ireland, launched today, are of grave concern.

“It is alarming to hear that one in five women aged 18 to 25 years reports having had experience of intimate relationship abuse. More troubling again is the revelation that 51 per cent of respondents report that the abuse had started when they were younger than 18 years of age.

“Women’s Aid has made a number of recommendations on the basis of this research, which I hope will be implemented by Minister Helen McEntee and the government.

“Notably, Women’s Aid has called for an awareness campaign for young people to promote a greater understanding of concepts relating to consent and gender equality, as well as to highlight the legal protections that are in place for those suffering intimate partner violence. In particular, the Domestic Violence Act 2018 creates a specific offence of coercive control. That is, a persistent pattern of controlling, coercive and threatening behaviour including all or some forms of domestic abuse (emotional, physical, financial, sexual including threats) by a partner or ex-partner. Alongside other Oireachtas colleagues and organisations like Women’s Aid, I was proud to play a role in bringing about the introduction of this offence. However, it is important to raise greater awareness of its existence; according to the report launched today, only 40 per cent of young men and 33 per cent of young women were aware that coercive control was even a crime.

“I echo Women’s Aid’s call for the creation of an Online Safety Commissioner and for the progression and enactment of the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill, or Coco’s Law, which was first brought to the Dáil by my Labour colleague, Brendan Howlin TD in January 2018.

“This legislation is long overdue, as evidenced by reports of a large leak of images of young women and girls in the last fortnight. The Labour Bill will return to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice next week. I am told that Deputy Howlin and Minister McEntee have already discussed a number of amendments to improve the legislation and I hope that the Minister will progress and enact this important Bill without delay.”