COPE Galway urges people suffering from online abuse to come forward

By Claire Henry

COPE Galway are urging victims of online abuse to break their silence and talk to someone.

One in five women aged between 18 and 25 have experienced online abuse, cyber harassment and dangerous intimate relationships during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a Women’s Aid study.

In addition, over 50% of females who had experienced abuse were under the age of 18.

Over one-third of young women who were abused online have never spoken to anyone because of fear, stigma and shame.

Online abuse is not gender specific but is more prevalent within the female community.

abuse
Photo courtesy of COPE Galway

Dr Carol Baumann, Head of Domestic Abuse Service with COPE Galway stressed to victims of abuse that it is not their fault.

“Victims of intimate online abuse will often feel that it is their fault; they can feel paralysed with fear. They may become disempowered and overwhelmed,” Dr Baumann said.

“The women who are coming forward for help are experiencing extreme levels of violence and control. They are fleeing for their lives. We need to breakdown some stigmas which have become associated with domestic violence in Ireland,” Dr Baumann added.

“You do not have to be married; you do not have to be living together, and you do not have to be in a relationship.”

“A victims silence can often give the abuser more power,” Dr Baumann said.

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Photo courtesy of Adobe

Digital Abuse

Many victims have not contacted COPE Galway as they “don’t consider it to be domestic abuse, but there are many ways in which COPE can help,” said Dr Baumann.

Around half of 18-25-year-old who were abused by a partner were abused online according to Women’s Aid Ireland.

Furthermore, victims detailed various forms of digital abuse where abusive boyfriend or ex-boyfriends used technology to monitor and control them.

Additionally “a common form of digital abuse is spreading sexually explicit images online without permission”, according to Women’s Aid. This is known as revenge porn.

Coco’s Law

Coco’s Law commenced on 8 February 2021. This now states that the sharing or the threat of sharing intimate images without consent, cyberbullying, online harassment and stalking is now a criminal offence.

In addition, images where faces have been photoshopped onto naked bodies and shared online are included within the legislation.

The altering of images that depict someone in an intimate image or engaged in sexual activity are also covered within the legislation.

COPE Galway is here to not only to listen, but to believe and support victims in their journey.

Cope Galway have a 24-hour confidential helpline 091-565985 or visit their website here

Women’s Aid Ireland’s national freephone helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 1800 341 900 or visit their website here

In the event that you are in immediate danger, contact your local Garda Station or call 999/112

For a full list of signs of an abusive relationship, click here

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