13/02/2012

Domestic Violence Campaign Launches

Sonas Housing and Meath Women's Refuge today launched a domestic violence awareness campaign to highlight the impact of verbal abuse.

The launch coincides with St Valentine’s Day, which is a difficult day for women experiencing domestic abuse with the focus on perfect romantic love.

The 'Killing me Softly with his Words' campaign raises awareness of verbal abuse which entails name-calling, insults, humiliation, intimidation, threatening comments and mind-games. The Sonas poster campaign aims to highlight the damage and the continual ‘chipping away’ of a person that results from receiving constant negative messages.

"As the poster shows, verbal abuse can in effect slowly deaden someone from the inside out," said Rachel Mullen, chairperson of Sonas Housing. "If a woman is experiencing physical abuse she can name what is happening and there are bruises and scars to prove it. Verbal abuse can have a hugely debilitating effect emotionally and psychologically but because of the lack of tangible evidence it can be harder for women to name it or to show its impact. No one goes to A&E because they have been humiliated and ridiculed and it’s difficult to file a complaint to the guards to say that your partner isolates you from your friends."

Continual verbal abuse can be just as destructive as physical abuse, with victims saying that because of its hidden nature it can actually be worse. Reports show that psychological abuse, particularly ignoring and ridiculing victims, contributes to depression and low self-esteem. Psychological abuse has also been linked to anxiety, panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. This is consistent with evidence from Sonas Housing which shows that 35% of domestic violence victims who apply for a Sonas house experience mental health problems as a result of living in abusive situations. The stress caused by living with long-term abuse can also have long-term health consequences such as high blood pressure and asthma.

According to Women’s Aid one in five women experience domestic abuse in Ireland, with this figure considered to be an under-representation given the hidden personal nature of the issue and the fact that, according to the HSE, a woman experiences at least 35 separate incidences of abuse before disclosing to another person.

The advert, produced with funding from Cosc, the national office on domestic and sexual violence, will feature in women's washrooms in shopping centres, pubs and community centres. It aims to help women recognise the destructive power of verbal abusive and recognise that there are places they can turn to for help.

(CD/GK)

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