only someone had asked…”
Violence and pregnancy
Northern Ireland Women’s Aid Federation (Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland) welcomes
the government proposal to
routine enquiries during antenatal care to establish whether women are at
risk of domestic violence during their pregnancy. This development is a
direct response to the fact that 30% of domestic violence starts or
intensifies during pregnancy.
One aim of
this initiative is to ensure pregnant women feel comfortable discussing
domestic violence. It will also enable them to get appropriate help and
support. Women who have used Women’s Aid’s services greeted the prospect
of greater domestic violence awareness positively. Many felt that their
own experiences would have been different if someone had asked them about
domestic violence during their pregnancy. One woman summed up their
feelings by saying: “If only someone had asked.”
Here in Northern Ireland, Women’s Aid is already working
with the Royal Jubilee Maternity Service to heighten awareness of domestic
violence and to develop policy, procedures and training for staff. The
Royal Jubilee hospital refers many women in need of help to local Women’s
Aid services where they are offered information, advice and accommodation.
Tragically for some women, pregnancy can be the beginning
of a traumatic time in their lives when they experience domestic violence
for the first time or when violence escalates. Shockingly, research shows
that violence during pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of
stillbirths, premature labour and haemorrhaging. It may also result in low
birth weight babies and injuries to the foetus.
Northern Ireland wide domestic violence strategy is eagerly awaited it
remains unclear how this routine enquiry will be funded and fully
implemented locally. In the interim, Women’s Aid continues to support
healthcare professionals across Northern Ireland in their work to address
Hilary Sidwell, Director of Northern Ireland Women’s Aid
Federation said: “By asking women about domestic violence during
pregnancy, midwives are opening channels for women to get help and support
where previously they may have felt isolated or unable to discuss the
issue. The introduction of a routine enquiry means that women will be able
get information and find out about the services they need if they are
affected by domestic violence. “
Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland offers support to women in Northern Ireland who are
living with domestic violence and abuse. Help is available by calling the
Women’s Aid 24 Hour Helpline (0800 917 1414), or through any Women’s Aid
group in Northern Ireland (contact details in the phone book or via the
Since 1996 48 people have been killed in Northern Ireland
in domestic murders.
16,926 domestic violence incidents were recorded in
2003/04, over half of which involved violence. This is an increase of
1,414 (9.1%) on that reported in the previous year.
There have been over 90,000 calls to the Women’s Aid 24
hour helpline since it was established in 1995.
Last year, over 2,000 women and children were accommodated
in Women’s Aid refuges throughout Northern Ireland.
British Crime Survey indicates that 1 in 4 women experience domestic
violence at some point in their lives. It cuts across class, age, religion
and ethnic group. It is most commonly perpetrated by men against women.
The impact of domestic violence on women can be serious
health problems both mental and physical, due to repeated threatened and
actual emotional, sexual and physical abuse.
At its most serious domestic violence results in
hospitalisation and death.
The Women’s Aid 24 hour Helpline number is 028 9033 1818.
Women can call the helpline for assistance and support. For women who do
not speak English, the helpline now uses Language Line, a UK wide
professional interpreting service in over 100 languages.
on the effects of domestic violence on pregnant women can be found in
Why Mothers Die: Report on confidential enquiries into maternal deaths in
the United Kingdom produced by Department of Health and Social
Domestic Violence: a health care issue?
published by the British medical Association