Women’s Aid launch #TooIntoYou campaign, to raise awareness of the impact of relationship abuse

On the eve of World Mental Health Day (tomorrow 10th October), Women’s Aid, the national organisation supporting women subjected to intimate relationship abuse, is highlighting the negative effect that intimate relationship abuse can have on young women’s mental health as part of their #TooIntoYou campaign.

The four-week multi-media campaign is raising awareness of intimate relationship abuse against young people and draws attention to the severe and lasting mental health implications of abuse, especially for those beginning adult life and their first intimate relationships. This includes enduring the subtlety of psychological manipulation, and the challenges young people face in identifying abusive behaviours.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid, says:

“Women’s Aid research on intimate relationship abuse against young women in Ireland found that 1 in 5 young women aged 18-25 have been subjected to abuse by a current male partner or ex. 84% of these young women said that the abuse had a severe impact on them including suffering low self-esteem/self-worth, enduring anxiety and depression and being isolated or withdrawn from friends, family, and social events. Very worryingly, 44% of young women subjected to intimate relationship abuse experienced suicidal thoughts with 19% of these young women disclosing that they had attempted suicide because of the abuse.”

Mary Hayes, Project Lead of the #TooIntoYou campaign, explains:

“For a young person starting to make their way in the world, maybe in their first intimate relationship, abuse can completely knock their self-esteem. If it’s your first relationship you won’t have anything to compare it to, so you might accept abusive behaviours as normal. Psychological manipulation can be subtle, and it can be difficult for a young person to grasp that the controlling behaviours their partner is displaying are abusive, as they're just trying to feel good about their relationship.”

Ms Hayes continues:

“If controlling behaviours are brushed off as "not a big deal," or seen as a normal part of a relationship then it creates a harmful picture of what young people should expect in their intimate relationships. When they do experience these behaviours then it can be even more distressing when they feel low or anxious. Very often they will be made to feel that they are to blame for how their partner treats them. It can be very confusing.”

Emotional abuse, online abuse and sexual coercion are particularly common amongst young women. Women’s Aid research found that 9 out of 10 of young women abused were subjected to emotional abuse which can include being put down, constantly criticized, intimidated, monitored, or threatened with violence.

Ms Hayes continues:

“When you are young, and you are in an abusive relationship it can be incredibly distressing and frightening. It can impact your self-esteem and mood. Abusive and controlling behaviours can leave you feeling anxious and on edge all the time for how they will react. We have heard from many young women that the emotional toll abuse took on them is what really stuck with them, even after the relationship ended.”

Orla, a young woman subjected to intimate relationship abuse, says:

“When I was 17, I got into a relationship with an older boy. A few months in, he was adamant for me to stay in his house on the weekends, this is where the isolation began. Not hanging out with my friends on weekends, not spending time with my family. If I was to hang out with friends or attend a birthday party he would always join. After two years of this behaviour, I became a recluse. I felt so alone from falling out with my best friend and family over him. This made me feel even worse as I thought he was the only person I had left. I knew what he was doing was wrong, but I couldn’t stay away, he had isolated me from all my family and my friends, and I felt like I had nothing left but him.”

Ms Hayes concludes:

“Too Into You is such a vital resource. In the last three months alone, toointoyou.ie, our dedicated website for young people, was visited 4,000 times. Unfortunately, so much of what young people understand about relationships is unhealthy. With our #TooIntoYou campaign we want young people to know what an abusive relationship looks like, so they can spot the red flags early on in their own relationships before things become really bad. We also want them to know that they don’t have to suffer in silence and that there is specific support available for them if they need it at www.toointoyou.ie.”

Women’s Aid’s #TooIntoYou campaign will run from 9th October to 6th November. The #TooIntoYou campaign draws attention to harmful behaviours and call them out as abusive and unacceptable and raises awareness of the supports for young people at the website toointoyou.ie.

Support for anyone affected: Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900, open seven days a week.

Instant Message Support Service on www.toointoyou.ie, open mornings and evenings, seven days a week.