Every year, between 25th November and 10th December, we join the rest of the world in shining a spotlight on violence against women. It’s called the 16 days of activism, and everyone can do their part to end violence against women.

The 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women has been commemorated each year since 1989, when a 25 year old man walked into a university in Montreal, separated out the male and female students, and killed 14 women. It is an opportunity for us to raise awareness about violence against women, debunk the myths surrounding domestic and sexual violence, and highlight the work we do to support women and children in Northern Ireland.

Last year, 710 women and 568 children stayed in our refuges across Northern Ireland. A further 7,030 women and 7,878 children accessed our outreach support, which allowed them to stay in their own homes while getting the support they needed to recover from their abuse.

38 of those women in refuge, and 179 women in outreach, were pregnant at the time.

13 babies were born to women in refuge.

Our 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline managed 29,657 calls in that year. Of the calls from victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence, 93% were women and 7% were men.

These numbers show that domestic and sexual violence continue to be a huge issue for women in Northern Ireland. Women’s Aid is there for women at every step of their journey, from crisis point when they leave their abuser, right through to helping them get back on their feet and overcoming the devastating impact of abuse on their lives. But we cannot do this work alone. If we are to truly eradicate the scourge of violence against women from our society, the whole of society must stand together and say that abuse is not acceptable.

Every person in Northern Ireland can do something during the 16 days of action, and any other day of the year. Here are some ideas for starters:

1.If you see abuse, do something: If you suspect that a friend or family member is suffering domestic violence, why not get in touch with the 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline and find out how you can support them. While it may not be safe or advisable for you to directly challenge an abuser, there are ways that you can help victims break free from abuse safely. If you witness someone being physically abused in a public setting, call the police.
2.If you’re a man, support the women in your lives: Violence against women is not just a women’s issue, it is all of society’s problem. If we are going to kick domestic violence to the kerb, we need men to call it out as unacceptable. If you’re a man and want to be a better ally of the women in your lives, why not check out White Ribbon NI and become an activist today.
3.Support our work through donations and fundraising: Throw a coffee morning, have a pub quiz, run a marathon, or just make a donation to Women’s Aid. All donations will help us do more to support women and children affected by domestic violence in Northern Ireland!