Almost 98% of women surveyed for a report into violence against women in Northern Ireland experienced at least one form of violence or abuse in their lifetime.
The report, 'Every Voice Matters!' Violence Against Women in Northern Ireland', led by Ulster University, also reveals that seven out of 10 of those surveyed had experienced some form of violence or abuse in the last 12 months.
A second report, 'It's Just What Happens': Girls' and Young Women's Views and Experiences of Violence in Northern Ireland' was led by Queen's University Belfast. It found that 73% of girls aged 12-17 reported having experienced at least one form of violence in their lifetime.
Both reports were commissioned by The Executive Office.
Speaking at an event launching both reports today, 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."
The report, 'Every Voice Matters!' Violence Against Women in Northern Ireland', was led by Dr Susan Lagdon, from Ulster University with findings of this report based on responses from 542 women. This report also found:
- Half of those (50%) experienced at least one form of violence or abuse before they were 11 years old;
- The worst experience of violence or abuse was most commonly committed by a 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%);
- Overall, only one third (33%) of the participants felt able to speak about, or report, the violent incident that had occurred, with shame and embarrassment found to be the greatest barrier to reporting violent experiences.
As Dr Lagdon explains: "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."
The 'It's just what happens': Girls' and Young Women's Views and Experiences of Violence in Northern Ireland' report was led by Dr Siobhan McAlister from Queen's University Belfast, with findings based on 268 girls and young women across Northern Ireland who participated in the research.
This research also reported:
- The persistent nature of 'everyday violence' with almost all experiencing catcalling and street harassment from age 10-11 onwards.
- Girls receiving frequent unsolicited messages and sexual images from a young age. They considered this a normal part of their online life.
- The top three ranked barriers to girls reporting violence were: worried they might not be believed; worried it might make the situation worse; and not feeling it was serious enough to report.
- Learning about violence against girls and young women was identified by the participants as an important step in prevention. This should happen at a young age for boys and girls, in families, schools and youth provision.
Dr McAlister said: "Those who took part in the research reported little formal learning about violence in school. This, alongside powerful social messages of blame and responsibility, impacts the ability of girls to recognise violence and their willingness to disclose personal experiences. Girls learn that they need to 'keep themselves safe', thus removing responsibly for violence from boys and men.
"Research participants were keen to point out, however, that blaming boys and men was not useful. Rather that early, inclusive and meaningful education was required. They emphasised the need to support boys and young men in recognising the impacts of their attitudes and behaviours, and to disturb negative attitudes towards women at a broader societal level."
The reports were commissioned to obtain reliable data and increase our understanding of the wider experience of violence against women and girls living in Northern Ireland. They are being used to inform the Strategic Framework to End Violence Against Women and Girls which is currently out to consultation.