Domestic violence and abuse

What is domestic abuse?

If a partner or an ex makes you feel scared, controlled or intimidated, you may be experiencing domestic abuse. There are many different forms of abuse. It can be physical or it can be emotional, and it may have impacts that can or cannot be seen by other people.

Abuse can happen to anyone at any age and in any type of relationship. It can happen to adults and it can happen to teenagers. You don't have to be married or living with your partner for them to act abusively towards you.

Types of abuse

An abusive relationship is where one person uses abuse to control and have power over their partner in an intimate relationship. Types of abuse include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Online abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Economic (financial) abuse
  • Digital abuse

Coercive control is another type of abusive behaviour. This is when a boyfriend or girlfriend, partner, husband or wife, or ex uses an ongoing pattern of controlling, coercive and threatening behaviours to trap the person in a relationship. A person experiencing coercive control may also change their routines and lose contact with family and friends. Coercive control can make it impossible or even dangerous to leave an abusive relationship.

What are my options?

Recognising that you are being abused is an important step. You may feel you need time to think about your situation. Or perhaps you have already made up your mind to end the relationship or to leave. Whatever you decide, your safety (and that of your children if there are children) is always the priority.

Domestic violence court orders

If you are being subjected to abuse by a current or former partner, you can get legal protection through the courts. The main kinds of protection available are safety, protection and barring orders. If you are experiencing domestic violence or abuse, you can apply for a:

You may also need to find out about:

Organisations that offer support services to support you are listed below (see ‘Support organisations and services’).

If you feel in immediate danger, call 112 or 999. Members of the Gardaí are specially trained to deal with these situations and can help you get support.

Domestic violence leave

From 27 November 2023, you have a legal right to 5 days of paid domestic violence leave, if you need to take time off work because of domestic violence and abuse. This could be for medical visits, legal proceedings, counselling, looking for other accommodation or accessing domestic violence services. The leave can be taken where you are directly experiencing domestic violence and abuse, or where you are supporting a ‘relevant person’. A ‘relevant person’ can be your:

  • Spouse or civil partner
  • Someone you live with
  • Someone you are in an intimate relationship with
  • Child who is under 18
  • Another dependent person

Are you concerned about someone you know?

You can take some basic steps to help and support a friend, family member, colleague, neighbour or anyone who confides in you that they are experiencing domestic abuse. You can offer emotional support and you can offer practical support.

Emotional support

  • Listen, try to understand and be careful not to blame them. Nothing they do or say can justify the abuser's behaviour.
  • Tell them they are not alone and that there are supports available if they need them.
  • Support them as a friend. Encourage them to express their feelings, whatever they are.
  • Don't tell them to leave the relationship if they are not ready to do this. This is their decision.

Practical support

  • Tell them about the support services available (see ‘Support organisations and services’ below).
  • Give them mobile phone credit if they need it so they can make calls in case of emergency.
  • Ask if they have suffered physical harm. If so, offer to go with them to a hospital or to see their GP. Suggest that it might be useful in future to have records of any injuries as abuse frequently escalates over time.
  • Help them to report the assault to the police if they want to.
  • Go with them to visit a solicitor if they are ready to take this step.
  • Agree a code word with them which they can use if they are in danger and need help.
  • Offer the use of your address and/or telephone number to leave information and messages, and tell them you can look after an emergency bag for them, if they want that.
  • Give them a small amount of money to put away in case they need to get a taxi or bus in an emergency to leave the house and go to family or a refuge.

Remember to look after yourself while you are supporting someone through such a difficult and emotional time. Ensure that you do not put yourself into a dangerous situation; for example, do not offer to talk to the abuser about their behaviour or let yourself be seen by the abuser as a threat to their relationship.

Support organisations and services

If you feel in immediate danger, call 112 or 999. Members of the Gardaí are specially trained to deal with these situations and can help you get support.

If you have been the victim of a sexual assault, you can go to a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) for immediate medical care. You do not need a referral but you should call your local unit before you arrive. These services are free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Women's Aid

Women’s Aid provide free and confidential support to women experiencing domestic violence, family and friends, and professionals supporting victims of abuse.

  • National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Telephone Interpretation Service on 1800 341 900 available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Instant messaging service available at
    • Saturday, 12pm – 3pm and 7pm – 10pm
    • Monday to Friday, 10am – 1pm and 7pm – 10pm
    • Saturday, 12pm – 3pm and 7pm – 10pm
    • Sunday, 11am – 1pm and 7pm – 10pm
  • Text service for Deaf and Hard of Hearing women available 8am – 8pm, 7 days a week on 087 959 7980
  • Domestic Abuse Information and Support Service for women at Dolphin House Family Law Court. Drop-in service for women who are experiencing abuse in a relationship available Monday to Friday, 9.30am – 12.30pm and 2pm – 4.30pm
  • Maternity Outreach Service for women who are experiencing domestic abuse and who are currently or recently received maternity care in the Rotunda Hospital, the National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street and the Coombe Hospital.
  • Free and confidential instant messaging support service and information for young people on intimate relationship abuse at Too Into You

Rape Crisis Centre

Rape Crisis Help offers a free, confidential listening and support service for women and men who have been raped, sexually assaulted, sexually harassed or sexually abused at any time in their lives.

  • National Helpline 1800 778 888 available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • DRCC Helpline Interpreting Service available Monday – Friday, 8am – 6.30pm
  • A network of local Rape Crisis Centres
  • Text service for people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing on 086 823 8443, Monday to Friday, 8am – 6.30pm
  • Online webchat via the DRCC website available Monday to Friday, 10am – 5pm

Finding Your Way after Sexual Violence is an online guide to the options and supports available after rape, sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence. The guide has information on accessing a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit, reporting to the Gardaí, and where to go for help.

Safe Ireland

Safe Ireland has up-to-date information on the location of local domestic violence support services and refuges in Ireland and their contact details.

Men's Development Network

The Men’s Development Network operates the National Male Advice Line on 1800 816 588 for men experiencing or who have experienced domestic violence.

  • Monday and Wednesday, 10am – 6pm
  • Tuesday and Thursday, 12pm – 8pm
  • Friday to Sunday and public holidays, 2pm – 6pm

Men's Aid

Men’s Aid Ireland (formerly known as Amen) provides a confidential helpline, a support service and information for men and their families experiencing domestic violence.

  • National Helpline (01) 554 3811, Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm
  • Email for confidential support at

CARI (Children At Risk in Ireland)

CARI has a helpline offering specialised support to anyone affected by child sexual abuse. CARI supports children, parents, adult survivors, professionals, and the general public.

  • CARI Care Line 0818 924 567, Monday to Friday, 9.00am – 5.00pm
  • You can request a callback by completing a short form

The Government launched a public awareness campaign on domestic abuse with a website It also has information for anyone in fear of domestic abuse in their home. It includes information about:

Page edited: 8 December 2023