Over 300,000 people in Ireland have been severely abused by a partner at some point in their lives.

If you have witnessed or experienced domestic violence or abusive behaviour by a partner, or you are concerned you have abused someone, you can prevent it from happening again.

Are you under 18 or do you need information on elder abuse?

Recognising Domestic Violence/Abuse

The term ‘domestic violence’ goes beyond actual physical violence. It can also involve the destruction of property; isolation from friends, family and other potential sources of support; threats to others including children; stalking; and control over access to money, personal items, food, transportation and the telephone.

Domestic violence is more common than most people realise and is often unreported and misunderstood. Research suggests that in the region of 213,000 women and 88,000 men in Ireland have been severely abused by a partner at some point in their lives.

It occurs in all social classes, all ethnic groups and among people of every educational background.

It can be described as the use of physical or emotional force or the threat of physical force, including sexual violence in close adult relationships..

Domestic violence profoundly affects the physical, emotional, social and financial wellbeing of individuals and families. It is perpetrated against a person by that person’s spouse, intimate partner, ex-partner, other family members and/or another person at home. Domestic violence is pattern of repeated abusive and controlling behaviours that occurs within an intimate or family relationship and may even continue after the relationship has ended.

Domestic, sexual and gender-based violence have recently emerged as an increasingly important topic in the public debate both in Ireland and in the international community. While, in the past, discussion has been framed principally with respect to violence against women, men can also be victims of violence in the home and in relationships. Some figures suggest that women and men experience similar levels of domestic abuse, particularly when both minor and more severe forms of abuse are combined. However, one must bear in mind that the impact and severity of abuse experienced by women is greater than that by men, particularly for more severe behaviours.

Men and women have exactly the same rights to be safe in their own homes. All statutory services (such as the Gardaí, Courts, and social services) have a duty to provide services to all, whatever their gender.

Definitions of abuse

  • Physical violence/abuse is any intentional and unwanted contact with you or something close to your body. It can include:

    • direct physical assault on the body
    • pushing / shoving
    • punching / slapping
    • biting
    • pulling of hair
    • choking
    • mutilation and maiming
    • burns
    • throwing of objects at a person
    • use of weapons to threaten or injure
    • being sexually assaulted and/or raped.
  • Emotional or psychological abuse can include:

    • continual “put downs” and/or criticism.
    • humiliation
    • bullying
    • threatening to hurt children or themselves
    • exploitation
    • intimidation
    • psychological degradation
    • verbal aggression
    • undermining of self-esteem
    • name calling
    • heavy monitoring of mobile phone use, texts, email and social media
    • property being destroyed.
  • Sexual violence is any form of sexual coercion (physical or emotional) or sexual degradation against an individual in the family or domestic unit. It can include:

    • any sexual activity without consent
    • unwanted sexual touching
    • sexual assault
    • rape
    • incest
    • rape between spouses, cohabitants, partners or ex-partners
    • causing pain without consent during sex
    • forced stripping of clothing
    • victims being told that it is their duty to have sex with the abuser
    • sexual degradation including the enforced use of pornography.
  • Financial abuse is a form of domestic violence in which the abuser uses money as a means of controlling their partner. It can include:

    • economic blackmail
    • complete control of all monies and bank accounts
    • denial of financial independence
    • complete control of family finances and spending
    • denial of access to necessary funds
    • preventing the victim from working
    • taking control of bank cards and access to credit
    • non-payment of child maintenance
    • refusal of funds for household bills.
  • Examples of social abuse can include:

    • systematic isolation from family and friends
    • forbidding or physically preventing the victim from going out and meeting people
    • constant criticising of victims’ family and friends
    • victims never being left on their own by perpetrator
    • refusal to allow victims to work.
  • Online or digital abuse is the use of technologies such as mobile phone texting and social networking to bully, pursue, cyber-stalk or intimidate a partner. In most cases, this type of abuse is emotional and/or verbal perpetuated online. Examples include:

    • sending negative, insulting or even threatening emails, Facebook messages, tweets
    • online “put downs” on status updates
    • sending unwanted and/or explicit pictures
    • tracking victim online activity, search history and cache history
    • stealing or insisting on being given online passwords
    • constantly checking of mobile phones for pictures, texts and calls
    • unkind comments/tags on Instagram or Tumblr etc.

Information on what you can do

If you have experienced domestic violence or abusive behaviour by a partner or you have witnessed domestic violence happening to a family member, a neighbour, a friend, loved one or stranger, then please take some time to look into some options.

The campaign

The national awareness campaign, that this website is part of, is one the key actions contained in the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021. It is intended that the campaign will run for six years. The overall aim of the campaign is to increase the awareness of domestic and sexual violence, to bring about a change in long established societal behaviours and attitudes and to activate bystanders with the aim of decreasing and preventing this violence. It will recognise that women and men are victims of such crimes. Click here to download materials from the campaign.

When did this abuse happen?

What type of abuse is it?

Describe the abuse

Tap on a point on the scale



Where are you now?

This is to show you services close to you

Is the victim known to you or are they stranger?

What type of help do you need?

Your gender

This will help us direct you to a support service that is best suited to helping you

What type of help do you need?

What do you want to do?

In an emergency, call the Gardaí on 999

Witness Advice

Before you get involved, ask yourself if it’s safe and legal to intervene. If the situation is already violent or looks like it’s escalating quickly, don’t directly intervene. Call the Gardaí on 999. The only effective bystander intervention is a non-violent one. If you try to “rescue” a victim or fight off an abuser, you’ll not only endanger yourself, but the abuser may take out their anger on the victim later. The victim could end up more isolated and less likely to seek help later on.

When it’s someone you know

As with all kinds of bystander interventions, the only way to know how to intervene is to know when to intervene. These are some warning signs that someone you know may be experiencing abuse.

Someone experiencing abuse may seem:

  • Anxious to please their partner
  • Afraid of their partner, talking about their temper, possessiveness, or jealousy
  • Restricted from seeing family and friends
  • Limited in access to money or a car
  • Depressed, anxious, or suicidal

Follow your instincts. If you’ve noticed these warning signs and expect that someone you know is being abused, don’t wait for them to approach you. Look for a private moment where you can express concern and let them know you’re there to support them.

Here are some ideas for beginning this conversation:

  1. Express concern

    Tell your friend that you’ve been concerned for them or that you’re worried. This is a non-judgmental approach that might make them feel comfortable about opening up. If they deny that anything is wrong, don’t push, simply communicate that you’ll be there for them if they ever want to talk.

  2. Assure them that the violence is not their fault

    This can be such an important thing for a victim of violence to hear. Some useful things to say might be, “No one deserves to be treated this way,” “You are not to blame,” or simply, “What’s happening is not your fault.”

  3. Support, but don’t advise

    This can be so hard to do, especially if the victim is someone close to you. But remember that you cannot make someone leave a relationship if they are not ready to do so. Also be aware that leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time for a victim. The victim is best placed to assess the danger for themselves. Give them options and offer to help and support them along the way, but pressuring a victim to leave a relationship who does not want to may only isolate them further by making them feel like they can’t confide in you. Remember that abusive behaviour is a pattern of getting power and control over someone else. Validating a victim’s choices and encouraging them to make their own decisions can help to break the cycle of power and control.

  4. Give resources

    There are plenty of services in Ireland who can offer help and support to the person you are concerned about. Check out our list of services to find the one most appropriate. You can help a friend with their safety plan.

  5. Keep it confidential

    Assure the victim that anything that has been said will stay between the two of you. Breaking a victim’s trust after they have opened up to you may only isolate them further, and could even put them in danger.

When it’s between strangers

Before we can be ready to intervene, we first need to learn what kinds of situations might require our involvement. Unfortunately, if you’re a bystander to abuse between people you don’t know, you’ll probably have a limited amount of time to assess the situation and decide how to best intervene.

First, some warning signs that a situation might be abusive:

If the person you think is an abuser is:

  • Displaying excessive jealously of their partner
  • Insulting or embarrassing their partner in public
  • Yelling at or trying to intimidate their partner

Or, if the person you suspect is a victim is:

  • Appears afraid of their partner
  • Acting submissively
  • Showing physical injuries, or wearing unusual clothing as if to hide an injury (e.g, sunglasses indoors or long sleeves in summer).

Then the behaviour you’re witnessing is probably abusive. From here, you must decide the best way to intervene.

If you’ve decided that a situation requires an intervention and that you feel motivated about getting involved and are happy that it is safe to do so, try following these three Ds to evaluate the best way to intervene.

  1. Distract

    Creating a distraction is an indirect and non-confrontational way to intervene, and it can help keep a dangerous situation from escalating. You can try distracting either the person about to commit violence, or the potential victim. Either way, your goal is to prevent a situation from getting worse, or better yet, to buy enough time to check in with the potential victim. Examples: Ask for directions, the time, help looking for a lost item, or anything else that you think might keep them from leaving quickly. Better yet, if you can use a distraction that will get you a moment alone with the victim.

  2. Delegate

    Even if you don’t know the victim and the abuser, someone else in the room might. Friends of the people involved might be in a better position to get involved, and they might have a better opportunity for a sustained intervention than you. You could say to them, “Look, I’m concerned about that person. Their partner seems really angry. Would you be able to check in on the situation now or later?” Or, if you don’t feel comfortable intervening but it doesn’t seem like the situation calls for Garda involvement, look for someone else who might be in a better position to get involved. If you’re at a bar, look for the bouncer or someone in a similar role and point out what’s happening.

  3. Direct

    In a direct approach you either approach the potential victim or potential abuser and intervene. The problem with directly approaching an abuser is that they may attack you and they might end up taking it out on their partner later. If you’re going to have any direct contact with a possible abuser it’s probably best to be subtler, like using body language to communicate disapproval and make your presence and concern known. You could do this just by watching the situation and making it obvious that you’re keeping an eye on the situation.

    If you’re going to try a direct approach, your best bet will probably be to approach the victim. You can simply say, “I’m concerned about what just happened. Is anything wrong?” Or, if you only have an instant and there’s no opportunity for even a brief conversation, you could say, “No one deserves to be treated like that,” or, “That wasn’t your fault.” Don’t try to give advice or judge or blame the victim for what’s just happened. Use the opportunity to say that you’re concerned, that you want to help, and that it’s not their fault.

Adapted from: http://www.icadvinc.org/prevention/for-bystanders/intervening-to-prevent-violence/

What can I do if I am in an abusive relationship?

Whether you are currently living with domestic violence, want to leave an abusive partner or are a survivor of domestic violence there are supports available to you.

Things you should consider are:

  1. Contacting a list of trusted services (Link to list of counties for services)
  2. Talking to someone you trust: a friend, relative or neighbour. Remember you may need to go to them in an emergency or if you have to leave your family home.
  3. Make a Safety Plan. Consider the following steps:
    • Is there a relative, friend or neighbour you trust? If so, think about telling them what is going on as you may need to go to them in an emergency
    • Prepare a bag for you, and any children you may have, with an extra set of house and car keys, money, a list of phone numbers you may need and a set of clothes each. Leave this bag with someone you trust
    • Keep your mobile phone with you at all times. Find somewhere you can quickly and easily use a phone if you don’t have access to a mobile. This could be a public payphone, or one at a neighbour’s, friend’s or relative’s house
    • Write out a list of numbers you might need in an emergency. Include friends, relatives, local police, GP, your local domestic violence service, your nearest refuge. Remember, even if you have numbers stored in your mobile you may not be able to access or use it, so copy out all numbers you might need. Keep this list with you at all times
    • Keep a small amount of money with you at all times for phone calls and/or taxi, train or bus fares etc.
    • If your children are old enough to understand, explain that you might have to leave in a hurry and make sure they know what to do if that happens. You could consider arranging a meeting point should you get separated from them
    • Teach your children to dial 999 if there is an emergency. Make sure they know what they will need to say: name, address and telephone number.
    • If you think your partner is about to attack you, try to stay out of the kitchen or garage where there may be knives and/or other weapons. Try to stay away from small rooms such as the bathroom where you may find it difficult to escape an attack
    • If you are thinking about leaving your partner contact your local services.
  4. Talk to your GP
  5. Report the abuse to your local Garda station
  6. Domestic Violence Court Orders
    • You can apply to the courts for a Safety or a Barring Order
    • A Safety Order bans your partner from using violent or threatening behaviour towards you, but allows your partner to continue living at home
    • A Barring Order bans your partner from using violent or threatening behaviour towards you and orders your partner to leave the home
    • While you wait for a Safety or Barring Order to be granted you can get a Protection Order from the courts. This is a temporary safety order which bans a person from using violent or threatening behaviour towards you. In exceptional circumstances a judge can grant an Interim Barring Order, without your abuser being present, where they believe you are at immediate risk. If your abuser breaches a Protection, Safety or Barring Order it is an offence and you should call your local Garda Station
    • To get an order go to your local District Court. You do not need a solicitor to make an initial application, but the courts highly recommend you have legal representation for full hearings. Contact your local District Court to find out what day family law cases are heard
    • If you would like someone to come with you, contact your local domestic violence service or your local refuge. (link to male/female option).
    • For more information contact a family law solicitor or the Legal Aid Board on 1890 615 200 (Monday to Friday; 10am – 12.30pm & 2pm – 4pm)
  7. If you are thinking of leaving your partner, here are some things to consider
    • Leave when they’re not around, and if you have children take all of them with you
    • Remember to take important personal documents concerning you and your children such as your passports, driving licence, marriage and birth certificates, PPS numbers, medical cards, address book, bank books, cheque books, credit cards, court orders and any other legal and financial documents
    • Pack enough clothes to last you several days
    • Pack any medicine you or your children might need
    • Pack some of your children’s favourite toys/possessions
    • Bring any personal possessions of sentimental value with you
    • If you are thinking about leaving your partner contact your local domestic violence service or your local refuge for advice on how to do so safely

I’m worried that I’ve abused someone

I am worried that my behaviour or the behaviour of someone I know is harming a partner or children, where can I get help and advice?

If you recognise that your behaviour or the behaviour of someone you know is harming a partner or the family, or have concerns about your behaviour in your domestic or intimate relationships, there are a number of organisations that can support you to help stop the violent or abusive behaviour. These include the following:

  • MOVE (Men overcoming violence)
  • MEND (Men ending domestic abuse) and
  • NEDVIP (North East Domestic Violence Intervention Programme).

  • Cosc – The National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence is currently working with these organisations in rolling out the Choices Programme, a uniform national domestic abuse intervention programme for men.

    This programme is a group work intervention to support and challenge men engaged in domestic abuse to change their abusive behaviour and attitudes towards their partners, while maintaining and supporting the safety and well-being of women and children as paramount. It also assists the men concerned to develop the necessary skills to live non-abusively. Individual sessions supplement the group work and occur at the beginning, during and after the programme.

    A key feature of the programme is that it also incorporates a separate partner support service that offers one to one support to the partners or ex partners of the men on the group programme. A further feature that is under development is the introduction of group work programmes with these partners.

    Available services are listed by county below.


    These services are available for in

    What the Research Tells Us

    Horgan et al survey on Attitudes to Domestic Abuse in Ireland

    A survey, undertaken by Cosc (2008), to examine Attitudes to Domestic Abuse in Ireland among the general population in Ireland found that:

    Watson and Parsons’ Domestic Abuse of Women and Men in Ireland Report (2005)

    According to the Watson and Parsons’ Domestic Abuse of Women and Men in Ireland Report (2005) from the National Crime Council in association with the Economic and Social Research Institute:

    Pan-European study on violence against women undertaken by European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)

    The (2014) pan-European study on violence against women undertaken by European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) found that 15 per cent of women surveyed in Ireland experienced physical and or sexual violence by a partner since the age of 15.

    According to the FRA study women surveyed in Ireland have experienced a number of constituents of domestic abuse by a partner

    Digital Safety

    Always remember that computers record everything you do on the computer and on the Internet.

    Computers store information about what you look at on the Internet, the e-mails you send, and other activities. It is impossible to delete or clear all computer "footprints". If you think you may be monitored on your home computer, it might be safer to use a computer in a public library, an Internet Café or at the home of a trusted friend.

    On-line / Digital abuse

    Online/digital abuse can include:


    All modern internet browsers have an ‘incognito’ or ‘private’ setting which should be utilised when looking for material online that is considered sensitive. Incognito or private browsing means that there will be no record of the user’s online activity while using the incognito or private mode.

    Here is how to turn on these settings in the most common browsers in use today:

    Internet Explorer

    Click on ‘Tools’ at the upper left hand side on the browser. Select ‘InPrivate Browsing’. To leave InPrivate Mode, close the private window or re-open your Internet Explorer browser.

    Google Chrome

    Click on the Menu button [=] or Wrench button icon in the top right corner. Select ‘New Incognito Window’. To leave Incognito Mode, close the incognito window or re-open your Google Chrome browser.


    Click Menu in the upper right-hand corner of the browser window. Select ‘New Private Window’. To leave Private Mode, close the private window or re-open your Firefox browser.


    Click on the File menu at the top of the browser window. Select ‘New Private Window’. To leave Private Mode select ‘New Window’ in the File menu or close the Private browser window and open a new Safari browser window.

    Deleting past online activity

    The simplest way to delete history on modern browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer 11 is by hitting “Ctrl + Shift + Delete”. This will automatically bring you into the clear browsing data option, where you just choose what to delete and click “clear”.

    For older browsers:


    E-mail is not always a safe or confidential way to talk to someone about the danger or abuse in your life. Helplines and/or contacting An Garda Síochána are preferred ways of seeking help and support.

    If someone has access to your e-mail account, they may be able to read your incoming and outgoing mail.


    For a comprehensive guide to staying safe and technology, go to http://nnedv.org/resources/safetynetdocs.html

    Campaign material

    The What Would You Do? campaign materials are available to download and use. Please acknowledge the source.

    DOJ-Babysitter_not-knowing_rev-endframe, Format: gif
    DOJ-Babysitter_2in5_rev-endframe, Format: gif
    DOJ-Apartment_not-knowing_rev-endframe, Format: gif
    DOJ-Apartment_2in5_rev-endframe, Format: gif
    'Not knowing' ads 2a, Format: mp4
    Extra Campaign Material, Format: pdf
    'Not knowing' ads 2b, Format: mp4
    Digital_and_Online_Abuse, Format: pdf
    Domestic_Violence_and_Children, Format: pdf
    Financial_Domestic_Abuse, Format: pdf
    Information_on_how_to_look_for_signs_of_Domestic_Abuse, Format: pdf
    Male_Victims_of_domestic_violence, Format: pdf
    Psychological_and_emotional_domestic_abuse, Format: pdf
    SPEAK_OUT!_don't_be_a_bystander, Format: pdf
    mydoorsopen_female_victim, Format: mp4
    mydoorsopen_male_victim, Format: mp4

    Extra Campaign Material

    Wrong password.

    Privacy Policy

    Cosc, an executive office of the Department of Justice and Equality takes your individual privacy very seriously. We aim to ensure that this website meets or exceeds all relevant legal and regulatory requirements.

    General Statement

    This policy establishes how Cosc will use information we gather about you from your visit to our website. The privacy of our customers is of utmost importance to us. We fully respect your right to privacy, and will not collect any personal information about you on this website without your clear permission. We will not engage in retargeting arising from your visit to this website.

    Collection and Use of Technical Information

    We may collect and store general information for statistical purposes. For example, we may count the number of visitors to the different pages of our website to help make them more useful to visitors. This information does not identify you personally. We automatically collect and store only the following information about your visit:

    1. the Internet domain (for example, 'xcompany.com' if you use a private Internet access account, or 'yourschool.edu' if you connect from a university's domain) and IP address (an IP address is a number that is automatically assigned to your computer whenever you are surfing the Web) from which you access our website;
    2. the type of browser and operating system used to access our site;
    3. the date and time you access our site;
    4. the pages you visit;
    5. if you visited this website from a link on another website, the address of that website.

    In short the technical information will be used only by the Department of Justice and Equality and its agents, and only for statistical and other administrative purposes.

    Collection and Use of Personal Information

    The information that you provide on the Department of Justice and Equality website will be used only for its stated purpose. By sending us an e-mail message, you may be sending us personal information such as your name, address, and e-mail address. We may store your name, address and e-mail address in order to respond to your request or otherwise resolve the subject matter of the e-mail.
    The Department of Justice and Equality will make no attempt to identify individual visitors, or to associate technical details with any individual. It is our policy never to disclose such technical information in respect of individual website visitors to any third party, unless obliged to disclose such information by a rule of law.

    Right to Refuse Cookies

    This website uses Google Analytics, a web analytics service provided by Google, Inc. ("Google"). Google Analytics uses "cookies", which are text files placed on your computer, to help the website analyze how users use the site.
    The information generated by the cookie about your use of the website (including your IP address) will be transmitted to and stored by Google on servers in the United States. Google will use this information for the purpose of evaluating your use of the website, compiling reports on website activity for website operators and providing other services relating to website activity and internet usage. Google may also transfer this information to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on Google's behalf. Google will not associate your IP address with any other data held by Google. You may refuse the use of cookies by selecting the appropriate settings on your browser, however please note that if you do this you may not be able to use the full functionality of this website. By using this website, you consent to the processing of data about you by Google in the manner and for the purposes set out above.

    Help for Users with Disabilities

    Cosc is committed to achieving a conformance level of Double-A with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Some of the features included to help people with disabilities are described below.


    All content and decorative images on this site include descriptive ALT attributes. ALT titles are provided to explain the content or the purpose of the image in question.

    Colour-blind or Partially Sighted Users

    You can increase and decrease the font size or override it completely.

    We have checked the site font and background colour combinations for the different colour-blindness conditions and ensured that items are not referenced by colour alone.

    Contact Us

    If you encounter any difficulties in using this site, please let us know by e-mailing our webmaster at cosc@justice.ie.

    Teen Help - advice for teens on violence at home

    This information is for young people who are concerned about domestic abuse. It may be something that is happening in your life, or to someone that you know and care about. Or maybe it is something you want to understand better.

    Domestic abuse can affect anyone. Many young people grow up seeing a parent being hurt or living in fear and may be victims themselves. It doesn't just happen at home. Domestic abuse also includes abuse by other relatives, boyfriends, girlfriends or ex-partners. If it is happening in your life, it probably means you are living with a lot of stress, fear, anger, sadness or guilt. Please remember the abuse is not your fault and you are not responsible for making the abuse stop.

    You should not have to experience or witness domestic abuse. Talk to someone you trust about the abuse to let them know what is happening and to help you get help and support for you and your family.

    For detailed information on how to help you to understand more about what domestic abuse is, the signs, tips to keep you safe and how to get help and support follow this link https://www.barnardos.ie/resources/young-people/domestic-abuse

    Adapted from:

    Helplines for under 18

    Information on elder abuse

    Elder abuse is any act, or failure to act, which results in a breach of a vulnerable person’s human rights, civil liberties, physical and mental integrity, dignity or general wellbeing whether intended or through negligence, including sexual relationships or financial transactions to which the person does not or cannot validly consent, or which are deliberately exploitative.

    65 years of age is taken as the point beyond which abuse may be considered to be elder abuse.

    Elder abuse can occur in many forms and may be the result of deliberate intent, negligence or ignorance. Types of elder mistreatment include:

    A wide range of people may abuse older people, including relatives and family members, professional staff, care workers, volunteers and neighbours. Elder abuse can occur in any context e.g. at home, residential day-care settings, and other places assumed to be safe as in public places.

    For information on recognising the signs of elder abuse, please use the following link: http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/olderpeople/elderabuse/signs/

    If you are concerned about elder abuse, or you may suspect someone you know may be the victim of elder abuse you should contact your GP, Public Health Nurse, the Safeguarding and Protection Team or the HSE Information line on 1850 24 1850.