Nearly €113,500 over 20 years – the high cost of domestic violence to a woman

A new Safe Ireland and NUI Galway research report, published today, finds that the aggregate cost of domestic violence to a woman, over her journey from abuse to safety, is approximately €113,475 over a time span of 20 years or more. The new report is the first to assess the indicative economic and social costs of domestic violence in Ireland.

Based on the individual estimate, the report assesses that the national cost of domestic violence to survivors is an estimated €56 billion over a 20.5 year journey – a total cost that is based on the most comprehensive study of the prevalence of violence against women in Ireland (Fundamental Rights Agency – FRA – 2014). While the cumulative cost of domestic violence is a more useful measure of the economic impact of DV over a “lifetime”, according to the researchers, it does indicate that domestic violence is costing women survivors at least €2.7 billion each year.

Assessing the Social and Economic Cost of Domestic Violence was undertaken for Safe Ireland by researchers, Dr Nata Duvvury and Dr Caroline Forde, of NUI Galway’s Centre for Global Women’s Studies. It is based on in-depth interviews with 50 women, using a purposive sampling strategy to ensure diversity and representation. The costs were tracked over three distinct phases; the abusive relationship phase lasting on average 15 years, the sanctuary and interim phase lasting on average 1.5 years and the relocation and recovery phase, spanning on average four years. Echoing the EU FRA prevalence study, emotional abuse was the most common form of coercive control.

Assessing the Social and Economic Cost of DV

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Mary McDermott, CEO of Safe Ireland, said that as well as highlighting the enormous economic and social cost of domestic violence to women, children and the state, the report highlights the complex relationship between poverty, social exclusion and domestic violence.

“The relationship between poverty and domestic violence/coercive control is complex and circular, acting as both a cause and effect of poverty,” she said.

“When women are in, leave, or are recovering from an abusive relationship, they will face an increasing and real threat of poverty, especially where financial control has been a core element of their abuse. However, it is also the case that many women do not leave abusive relationships because of the threat of poverty and stigma. This hidden domestic violence/coercive control poverty trap needs close scrutiny and further research.”

Lost income/productivity emerged as the single major cost for women, equivalent to an average of €205,511 for those women who experienced income loss over the three phases (not all women experienced or reported income loss or indeed all costs).

Health costs were the most widely reported. In addition, women faced significant service bills such as legal costs, debt, damage or loss of property often caused by the perpetrator, as well as critical challenges with regard to housing and relocation in particular. A number of women became homeless as a result of domestic violence through their journey. The report also highlighted the prevalence and cost of ongoing or separation abuse, in particular the impact of ongoing financial abuse in terms of unpaid child maintenance or the use of child maintenance payments to exert control.

Dr Caroline Forde, NUI Galway said that the findings confirm existing international evidence that domestic violence/coercive control is a costly, pervasive social problem that costs survivors, families and the State, directly and indirectly.

“The cost of domestic violence/coercive control both for individuals and families, as well as for the national economy, is substantial. Direct costs include expenses for services to treat and support abused women, their children and to bring perpetrators to justice,” she said. “The indirect costs include lost employment and productivity which greatly undermines women’s capabilities.”

She highlighted that twice as many women in the sample were unemployed at the time of interview than were at the beginning of the abusive relationship. Most had been driven into unemployment because of illness/injury and trauma due to domestic violence, or because the perpetrator prevented them from working, thus stalling their careers.

The interview-based methodology also meant that the researchers could identify the channels of help that most women seek along the way. They found that across the three phases, services in the domestic violence, healthcare, legal, criminal justice and judicial sectors were most commonly accessed by women. The primary entry point for support was through healthcare services.

Safe Ireland said that the findings of this research could make an important contribution to ongoing Government developments in the area of DSGBV, including the first national Audit of DSGBV, the ongoing Tusla Accommodation Review and the development of the third DSGBV Strategy.

The new Irish findings are in line with, and contribute to, the international evidence base for the cost of domestic violence. Research from the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), released last week, has estimated that the cost of gender-based violence across the EU is €366 billion a year. Violence against women makes up 79 % of this cost, amounting to €289 billion.

Safe Ireland – Cancelled 999 Domestic Violence calls expose dangerous practice, out-dated technologies and unreliable data

Safe Ireland, working with 39 frontline domestic violence services, said that while it welcomed reports today that the cancellation of domestic violence 999 calls had fallen by two-thirds following the introduction of tighter controls on how calls were processed in late 2020, flaws of such a serious nature were not reducible to technologies.

Further details on local and individual practice, on information flow and on data implications are necessary.

Mary McDermott, CEO of Safe Ireland, said that these events contrast sharply with the positive on-the-ground effects of Operation Faoiseamh which explicitly supported local gardaí to prioritise domestic violence.

“This is clearly not a matter of policy but practice and technical infrastructure. More seriously, it also appears to expose remnant dismissive attitudes in our police service to coercive control and abuse in the home as merely a private matter rather than a crime. All gardaí need depth training on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence”

Furthermore, accurate recording of data directly effects how dv is understood. If calls were cancelled, repeating and patterned calls from survivors, which evidence coercive control, may not be recognised or escalated appropriately.

“We know that what happened with these calls is not Garda policy,” she said. “We have welcomed and actively supported Operation Faoiseamh, which prioritised the response to domestic violence survivors from the start of Covid-19. Our service members across the country have spoken about the importance of proactive Garda response to domestic violence and the developments that the force has made over recent years particularly. These call cancellations directly undermine this work.”


“However, we have also consistently reported identifiable and persistent regional pockets of bad practice, particularly amongst rank-and-file gardaí, where there would seem to be a continued lack of professional understanding of the nature, complexity or impact of coercive control and trauma.”

McDermott said that the cancellation of crisis calls are clear evidence of poor practice and show the need for immediate and substantive training on coercive control for all members of the police service, at all levels, but particularly for those in the call centres as the first point of contact for many survivors.

She also said that the cancellation of DV 999 calls further undermines Garda data on the crime of coercive control. Immediate and thorough-going review of these processes is necessary.

#HaveYourSay on the next DSGBV strategy

Department of Justice with Safe Ireland and NWCI launches a public consultation process to help develop a new national strategy.

Department of Justice (@DeptJusticeIRL) Tweeted:

🚨 📢 We along with partners  @SAFEIreland & @NWCI have launched a public #consultation process to help develop a new national strategy to combat Domestic, Sexual & Gender-based Violence

#HaveYourSay here below

Airbnb extends partnership to provide free accommodation to domestic violence survivors

Airbnb has extended its partnership with Safe Ireland and Women’s Aid to provide free emergency accommodation for domestic violence survivors across Ireland. The decision comes as Ireland prepares to lift lockdown restrictions and emergency refuge services operate with reduced capacity and an increase in demand.

The initial partnership launched in June 2020 as Ireland prepared to reopen from the first lockdown and has provided 2,000 nights of emergency accommodation to date.

Domestic violence services have continued to see high numbers through 2021 with many survivors presenting with highly complex needs and heightened trauma from months of living with their abusers in extended lockdown.

The need to ensure safe social distancing in specialist domestic violence accommodation services has reduced capacity by 25% and there is concern that demand may increase further over the summer months. Last year July and August were the busiest months as women are often more reticent to leave homes whilst children are in school.

Safe Ireland’s ‘Tracking the Shadow Pandemic’ reports carried out through 2020 show that on average, 180 women and 275 children looked for emergency accommodation every month between March and December. But in that same time, 2,159 requests for refuge could not be met by services, indicating the importance of having other accommodation choices available.

Mary McDermott, CEO of Safe Ireland said,

“Domestic violence is the leading cause of family homelessness. The availability of safe, affordable and stable housing is fundamental not only to a woman’s ability to escape an abusive partner, but also to remain safe and independent. This partnership with Airbnb has provided a crisis-time option for some women to escape violence and we are delighted that it is continuing. The accommodation provided is designed to be temporary but it provides critical respite for services and women to make longer term plans.”

 Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid said,

“Women’s Aid is delighted to know that this vital support to women and children is being extended by Airbnb. The need and demand for creative responses to the needs of those subjected to domestic abuse is only increasing. Our 24hr National Freephone Helpline, which responded to 38% more calls between March and December 2020, acts as a direct referral point to a wide range of local and regional services and supports for women subjected to abuse all over Ireland, and we will continue to signpost callers in need of accommodation to all of the domestic violence services participating in this partnership.”

Airbnb will continue to work through its hotel partners to provide temporary accommodation, free of charge, when specialist emergency accommodation is not available. Domestic violence services throughout the country will assess the safety needs of survivors before arranging bookings into the temporary hotel accommodation.

All those accommodated as part of this initiative will continue to be closely supported by domestic violence specialists. Safe Ireland will coordinate the initiative with its frontline services and support from the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline. All accommodation costs are sourced and paid for by Airbnb.

Jean Hoey, Public Policy Lead for Airbnb in Ireland, said,

“We have much to look forward to as lockdown restrictions ease and a return to a sense of normality seems possible again. For those facing domestic abuse however, freedom will always seem out of reach. It’s a privilege for us to be able to support the vital work of Safe Ireland and Women’s Aid to ensure that anyone seeking help can be offered a safe space from where they can hopefully take the first steps towards rebuilding their lives.”

No Going Back

We are setting out our evidence-based vision for a transformative strategy and infrastructure for DSGBV in Ireland.

We have been clear from the very beginning of this pandemic that Covid-19 did not cause domestic and sexual violence. It has exposed it.


We have also been clear that this epidemic, and the quite phenomenal outpouring of communal empathy for those living with control and abuse that we have seen, has also fully revealed the inadequate, siloed and poorly resourced way in which we are responding to coercive control generally, and domestic violence specifically.

Over this past year, when we have discussed and named the intense stresses of this crisis period and the inadequate response structure with our frontline member services, the phrase “No Going Back” consistently came up as the expression which embodied what we all want to come out of this crisis.


Covid-19 has proven to be a threat, but also an opportunity, for the DSGBV sector – with all the burdens that implies.

Our new discussion paper sets out our vision for a transformative infrastructure and strategy to respond to the needs of survivors – primarily women and children. We hope that it will support the work that is currently underway to review extant DSGBV infrastructures. We also hope that it can feed into the development of the new third national strategy for DSGBV.

Four key recommendations

Safe Ireland has four key recommendations that will transform the way we respond to DSGBV in this country. We need:

  • A dedicated Minister and Ministry;
  • Integrated and survivor focused policy and services;
  • Sustainable and thriving specialist local services;
  • A world-leading intervention and prevention strategy.

Hardwired to Journeys

What makes this discussion paper unique and completely hardwired to the complex and holistic needs of women and children is that it pivots around the journeys that they take as they move from entrapment to safety and freedom. The paper also begins to set out some of our thinking on the need for more nuanced conceptualisations and language about DSGBV.

We undertook a series of scoping exercises, based on our years of experience and collaboration with our 39 service members, to document the journey of women and children.

Out of this we have developed two separate journey maps, one of which documents the Journey of a Woman and the second the Journey of a Child.

Journey of a woman from DSGBV to independent living

Journey of a woman from DSGBV to independent living

Journey of a child from DSGBV to independent living

Journey of a child from DSGBV to independent living

Time to think

We have developed a build-up map, or animation, of the Journey of a Woman so that you can take the time to contemplate the complicated, non-linear, stop and start, meandering and often prolonged journeys that women can take particularly.

We hope these maps will throw light on the necessity for an always present, multi-disciplinary response to support women and children on their journeys out of abuse.

What We’re Doing Isn’t Working

Unfortunately, however, we are responding to these non-linear, complicated and meandering journeys with a siloed approach – without leadership, without vital all of government connection, as you can see here.

Current National Framework

There is a Better Way

The lives of survivors can be transformed by a systemic change to policy, practice and commissioning that promotes early intervention and reduces the prevalence, impact and tolerance of DSGBV at all levels. We have set out what an integrated structure of response might look like, cascading from leadership at political level, through national and regional authorities to local service level.

Proposed National Framework

And this in turn is connected to the development of a fit for purpose, integrated regional service delivery plan.

Regional Integrated Structure and Delivery

A new model must be built which meets the journey and needs of survivors, which meets the demands of best- practice, transparency and genuine social change.

What we have set out here in our new discussion paper illustrates clearly that there can be no going back.

View and Download: No Going Back Discussion Paper

No Going Back Discussion Paper – March 2021

Download PDF of ‘No Going Back Discussion Paper’


Safe Ireland recognises mothers living with coercion – past and present – with creative campaign this Mothers’ Day

Children the invisible victims in the shadow pandemic of domestic abuse

Safe Ireland said that the high numbers of children consistently accessing its members services with their mothers throughout 2020 must be highlighted, saying that they are the “invisible victims” of the pandemic.

Safe Ireland’s latest Tracking the Shadow Pandemic – Lockdown 2 report shows that, on average, 550 children a month received support from a dedicated domestic violence service over the four month period from September to December 2020.  Over the first six months of the pandemic, from March to September, an average of 411 children accessed services each month.

Safe Ireland is the national domestic violence agency working with 39 domestic violence services across the country.

Of the children who accessed services in the latter part of the year, at least 486 of them were ‘new’ children – that is children who had never accessed a service before with their mothers.

The report also shows that at least 265 children stayed in a range of domestic violence accommodation (refuge, safe homes and supported housing) every month between September and December. Over this period, 167 women on average every month were staying in refuge, safe and supported housing.  More children than women are consistently staying in domestic violence accommodation.

“We are extremely concerned that children living with domestic violence are suffering more than ever as this lockdown continues,” said Mary McDermott, CEO of Safe Ireland. “They are the invisible victims of this shadow pandemic of violence and abuse, and must be identified as victims in their own right. Mothers are extremely worried and stressed about their welfare and constantly ask for extra therapeutic supports for them. This is even more critical to provide now that schools remain closed since before Christmas.”

“However, there seems to be little additional funding or consideration for the specialist supports and therapeutic services that are needed by children,” she said. “Children are not just bystanders or accessories to violence, they are direct victims of abuse and control. Research tells us clearly that coercive control has the same debilitating impact on children as it does on their mothers.”

Of particular concern, Safe Ireland said, is the high numbers of children who accessed a range of specialist support services in the month of December, and in the run-up to Christmas. While the numbers of women accessing services reduced in December, the number of children being supported by domestic violence services rose to 604, the highest point in the Covid year.

Notes to editors

Tracking the Shadow Pandemic – Lockdown 2 is based on data collected monthly by 30 domestic violence services. Safe Ireland works with 39 services in total. However, not all services could submit data every month of the period in question. The final report relies on consistent data only.

See also the Safe Ireland release outlining the overall statistics on women and children seeking support from domestic violence services from domestic violence services from September to December 2020.

For more information contact:
Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-2935207

Further increases in women and children contacting a domestic violence service during the second lockdown of 2020

On average, at least 2,018 women and 550 children received support from a domestic violence service each month from September to December 2020, according to Safe Ireland’s second Tracking the Shadow Pandemic – Lockdown 2 report, published today.

November was the busiest month of the four-month period. When Ireland was at the height of its second Level 5 lockdown, over 2,180 women and 602 children received support from a dedicated domestic violence service. Safe Ireland is the national social change agency working with 39 member services across the country.

Over 2,445 new women and 486 new children contacted a domestic violence service for the very first time in these four months. This equates to 611 new women and 122 new children every month, or 20 new women and 4 children every day, who had, as far as is known, never contacted a service before.

The statistics for the latter part of 2020 were higher generally than those reported over the first six months of the pandemic. The first Safe Ireland Tracking the Shadow Pandemic report, which covered the six month period between March and August 2020, showed that at least 1,970 women and 411 children received support each month.

Helpline calls were also up on average over the second part of the year. Domestic violence services answered 23,336 helpline calls over the period, an average of 191 calls a day, up slightly from 184 calls a day in the first six months of the pandemic. November was the busiest month of the period, with 6,409 calls answered – that’s 213 a day or nearly 9 calls every hour.

Mary McDermott, CEO of Safe Ireland, said that even in an extraordinary time of crisis, these numbers were shocking. Adequate resources and creative solutions were needed to respond to the needs of women but also the needs of the frontline emergency professionals responding to them, she said.

“Since last March, our 39 frontline-service member organisations have been working under enormous pressure to respond to those fleeing domestic abuse”, she said. “This frontline work cannot stop. It can take no breaks. From these figures we can see that somewhere, every day, in this small country, there is a woman, most often with children, looking to escape abuse and violence.”

“Our message to survivors remains clear and steadfast. You do not have to live in an oppressive home. You do not have to endure abuse and control. There is professional support available in your community,” she continued.

“However, the dedicated professionals who provide the vital supports and services needed by women and children in their communities must also be adequately resourced. At the moment, and as a legacy going back many years, there are significant disparities between those working in DSGBV services and other social care settings. Parity and respect must be afforded DV frontline workers.”

She said that Safe Ireland continues to welcome the Government’s national prioritisation of domestic violence during the Covid crisis. But it was essential, she said, that a new, integrated National Services Development plan be put in place as a cornerstone of the forthcoming third National Strategy on domestic violence. Crucially, she said, multi-annual funding must be established to enable proper planning and service development. Ill-conceived technocratic processes hamper the urgent work of response and prevention of domestic violence.

On average 167 women and 265 children stayed in a range of domestic violence accommodation (range of refuge, safe homes and supported housing) each month between September and December. This is slightly down on those in accommodation over the first six months. In total, 808 requests for refuge could not be met in the four months because there was no space. This equates to 7 requests per day on average, slightly down on the first six months. In October, however, 306 requests for refuge could not be met, the highest for the tracked months of 2020.

Tracking the Shadow Pandemic 2 – September to December 2020

  • On average, 2018 women and 550 children received support from a domestic violence service every month from September to December 2020.
  • 2,445 new women and 496 new children accessed services for the first time.
  • 23,336 helpline calls were answered, an average of 191 calls a day.
  • November was the busiest month for women (2,180) and December for children (604).
  • 167 women and 265 children stayed in a range of domestic violence accommodation.
  • 808 requests for refuge could not be met due to lack of space.
  • Services held 18,892 phone support sessions, 166 video support sessions and 8,783 in-person support sessions.

Notes to editors

The report is based on data collected monthly from 30 domestic violence member services (including Women’s Aid which runs the national helpline. The first Tracking the Shadow Pandemic report was based on data from 32 member services. Safe Ireland has 39 member services in total. However, not all could submit data every month. The final report relies on consistent data.

For comparison – Tracking the Shadow Pandemic 1 – March to August 2020 (6 months)

  • 3,450 women and 589 children contacted a domestic violence service for the first time.
  • On average 1,970 women and 411 children received support from a domestic violence service every month.
  • 33,941 helpline calls were answered – an average of 184 calls every day.
  • Services held 33,624 phone support sessions, 575 video support sessions and 8,143 in-person support sessions.
  • Services received a 2,260 helpline emails, 3,452 texts and 1,047 online chat messages.

On average 191 women and 288 children were in domestic violence accommodation each month. 1,351 requests for refuge could not be met due to lack of space.

For more information contact:
Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-2935207

Woman and Child – The most far reaching, creative and inspiring campaign we’ve ever run!

2,275,513 impressions. In just two weeks.

That’s the reach achieved by with our amazing and powerful 1 minute film Woman and Child, made by film maker Marion Bergin, and which was at the heart of our Nollaig na mBan campaign, launched on January 6th 2021.

So impressions are one thing – they give us an idea about how many times a post about our campaign appeared in somebody’s feed. But, engagement is something completely different. In total, there were over 200,000 video views across its different cutdown formats – 1 minute, 30 seconds and 10 seconds. And of those views, there was a massive 133,870 video completions.

One of our core aims for this campaign was to raise awareness about coercive control. The film, in just 60 seconds, and less, depicting the shrinking and micro-managed world of a woman and child living with control and abuse. We hope that at least 133,870 more people now know a little more about this insidious crime.

But the film was just one half of the campaign. Its darkness was complemented with a truly standout Herstory lightshow featuring images that incapsulated the sovereignty, strength, resilience, diversity and autonomy of women. Every day for two weeks, these amazing images were shared, liked, re-tweeted thousands of times, helping to spread the reach of the campaign even further.

On January 6th itself, in freezing temperatures, a small little band of socially distanced women and men met in O’Connell Street to light up the GPO first. We then moved on to Christchurch Cathedral where the Archbishop and Dean came out to meet us. After that it was down to the former Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott Street before heading out to Clontarf to illuminate a domestic house. It was perhaps the illumination on the ordinary house that was most haunting and evocative. It was a reminder that control, abuse and inequality happens in our midst, on our roads, in our villages and neighbourhoods. Until it is exposed here – illuminated here – it will continue to thrive, in the shadows, in the silence. But, hopefully with this campaign, we have raised consciousness about this.

We are extremely grateful to all of the amazing artists and creatives who worked with us to make this campaign such a success – the Herstory movement, Marion Bergin and Lisa Turnbull of The Nice Things, photographers and artists Ellen McDermott, Myriam Riand and Áine O’Brien, Dodeca for the illuminations and Adrian O’Connell for his videography.

See the full campaign page here

Substantial sentence for coercive control recognises the seriousness of the crime

Case and sentence also highlights complexity of ‘coerced collusion’ and the need to support vulnerable witnesses.

Safe Ireland said the “substantial” sentence handed down today to a man convicted of coercive control and multiple assaults on his former partner was an appropriate recognition of the seriousness and sustained nature of the crime of domestic abuse.

The man, named as Daniel Kane from Scariff House, Waterville Terrace in Blanchardstown, received a 12 and a half year sentence with two and a half years suspended.

Mary McDermott, CEO, said that Mr Kane’s conviction and the length of sentence, acknowledged the severity of the crime and its life-denying impact on victims. The deep drivers of these behaviours rest on toxic gender expectations and entitlements, evidenced in this case by the fact that the perpetrator showed no remorse or sense of profound wrong-doing, she said.

“The crime of coercive control enables us to understand the age-old problem of ‘collusion’ and entrapment in cycles of domestic violence,” she said. “We can now see that this ‘collusion’ is an effect, not a symptom of, sustained abuse, making victims vulnerable witnesses and in need of specialist supports. In this case, the abuser admitted that he had tried to get the victim to withdraw her statements and prevent his trial going ahead.

She said that this type of coerced collusion, which too often results in cases being dropped by women, and sometimes used against women themselves in relation to their children, was central to understanding the highly gendered patterns of coercive control.

“This sentence is a shot across the bow to all abusers,” she continued. “It tells them very clearly that they can no longer control, stalk, assault, isolate or degrade a woman with impunity. What was once secret and privatised, is now public. In Ireland, the coercion and assault of any human being is a crime. Living in a ‘lockdown time’ we are gaining ever greater understandings of these household traumas and imprisonment.”

“We believe it also sends a strong message to women who are experiencing abuse and control, to those around them, and to their communities, to speak openly. You do not have to live in an oppressive household. We are learning to name these situations accurately. You will be supported and believed. Our judicial system recognises this crime as an extremely serious threat to the life and well-being of women.”

She commended the woman for her courage in pursuing this case, despite coercion to drop charges. She trusted that the justice system would fully recognise the horror she has lived through, which was upheld. She also commended An Garda Siochana for their investigative work in ensuring robust evidence so that this case could be brought forward by the DPP.

She also said that it was vital that state agencies like An Garda Síochána had ongoing independent capacity to intervene proactively in domestic abuse situations, as has been happening through Covid-19 with Operation Faoiseamh.

For more information contact:  Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-2935207