Frequently asked questions

Aoibhneas has established in 1988 to provide women and children experiencing domestic violence access to support and crisis accommodation.  We are one of the biggest refuge accommodation providers in Ireland providing crisis accommodation to women and children all over Ireland who have to flee their home and access safe and comfortable accommodation. We provide support and information to women experiencing domestic abuse through our freephone 24 hour helpline. We provide an outreach and community based service, drop in service and court preparation and accompaniment service to women and children residing in the Dublin City Center, North Dublin and North County Dublin area.

Aoibhneas provides a range of inclusive front line services, which are available to women and children who have experienced or are experiencing domestic abuse.

Our services are available to women and children of any sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, age or ability.

Aoibhneas pronounced eevnass is an Irish word which when translated to English means happiness or joy.

We define domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading or violent behaviour, including sexual violence, by a partner,  ex-partner, a family member or carer. It is very common. In the majority of cases, it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men.

Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Coercive control
  • Psychological and/or emotional abuse
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Financial or economic abuse
  • Harassment and stalking
  • Online or digital abuse

Coercive control is a persistent pattern of controlling, coercive and threatening behaviour including all or some forms of domestic abuse (emotional, physical, financial, sexual including threats) that is used to harm, punish, or frighten.

This controlling behaviour can have a serious impact designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive control creates invisible chains and a sense of fear that pervades all elements of a victim’s life. It works to limit human rights by depriving the victim of their liberty and reducing their ability for action.

Everyone has arguments, and everyone disagrees with their partners, family members and others close to them from time to time. And we all do things at times that we regret, and which cause unhappiness to those we care about. But if this begins to form a consistent pattern, then it is an indication of domestic violence and abuse.

Domestic abuse is fundamentally the control of one partner over the other and this usually involves some or all of the following: coercive control, emotional, verbal, financial, sexual and physical abuse. For many women and children who have been subjected to abuse, it is difficult to know what a healthy relationship is as abuse is normalised and accepted.

Domestic abuse can make you feel isolated, unable to talk to others, embarrassed, ashamed, worthless, low self-esteem, insignificant, vulnerable and powerless to change your circumstances. As a result, many women may remain with their abuser, lacking the self-esteem to act or living in the hope that the abuser will change.

Each case of domestic abuse is unique but there are some common trends that we see across each case. The list below can help you recognise if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse.

Remember, an abuser can be a family member not just an intimate partner:

  • Are you scared of the person?
  • Has the person ever physically hurt you?
  • Are you worried to say certain things or challenge certain behaviours through fear of violence or verbal abuse/arguments?
  • Do you ever feel that you can’t do anything right for the person?
  • Do they make you feel worthless?
  • Do they ever degrade you in public?
  • Do they say or do things of a sexual nature that makes you feel uncomfortable?
  • Have they ever forced you to have sex when you didn’t want to?
  • Do they blame you for their behaviour?
  • Are you able to see friends and family?
  • Do they want to know where you are all the time?
  • Do they stop you from going out to meet friends, attend groups, education or stop you from doing what you want to do?
  • Do they constantly call or text you?
  • Have they threatened to ‘out’ you to your family and community?
  • Are you afraid that they may try to kill you?
  • Have they threatened to take their lives if you try to leave?
  • Are you being forced to marry someone you don’t want to?
  • Are they threating your immigration status if you try to seek help?
  • Do they threaten to hurt or blackmail your close family?
  • Are they threatening to take your children away from you if you seek help?
  • Do they tell you, you are mentally unwell and that no one will believe you?
  • Do they threaten to tell police and authorities that you are the abuser?
  • Have they ever been violent towards your pet?
  • Did you grow up with domestic violence in the household? Does domestic violence seem normal to you?
  • Do they shout or threaten your children?
  • Are your children frightened often?
  • Do your children suffer hardship, problems with school achievements?
  • Do you notice any different behaviours in your children?
  • Are your children slapped or hit by the perpetrator?

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone regardless of class, gender, race, age, disability or sexuality, religion or educational background.

Just because someone does not look like a typical victim does not mean they are not suffering from domestic abuse.

Partners, ex-partners and family members

Domestic abuse against adults by their partners, ex-partners or family members can affect people from all walks of life and background. Although most domestic abuse is carried out by men against women

Domestic abuse also includes forced marriage, female genital mutilation, ‘honour’ based abuse ‘ and abuse of elderly family members.


Domestic abuse is defined as taking place between adults, but this abuse also harms children. There is also evidence that it often occurs alongside child abuse within families.

Digital abuse is the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. Often this behaviour is a form of verbal or emotional abuse perpetrated online.

In a healthy relationship, all communication is respectful whether in person, online or by phone. It is never ok for someone to do or say anything that makes you feel bad, lowers your self-esteem or manipulates you.

You may be experiencing digital abuse if your partner or ex-partner:

  • Tells you who you can or can’t be friends with on Facebook and other sites.
  • Sends you negative, insulting or even threatening emails, Facebook messages, tweets, DMs or other messages online.
  • Uses sites like Facebook, Twitter, foursquare and others to keep constant tabs on you.
  • Puts you down in their status updates.
  • Sends you unwanted, explicit pictures and demands you send some in return.
  • Pressures you to send explicit video.
  • Steals or insists to be given your passwords.
  • Constantly texts you and makes you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone for fear that you will be punished.
  • Looks through your phone frequently, checks up on your pictures, texts and outgoing calls.

You never deserve to be mistreated, online or off. If you’re experiencing digital dating abuse, we encourage you to chat with a peer advocate at


  • Your partner should respect your relationship boundaries.
  • It is ok to turn off your phone. You have the right to be alone and spend time with friends and family without your partner getting angry.
  • You do not have to text any pictures or statements that you are uncomfortable sending, especially nude or partially nude photos, known as “sexting”.
  • You lose control of any electronic message once your partner receives it. They may forward it, so don’t send anything you fear could be seen by others.
  • You do not have to share your passwords with anyone.
  • Know your privacy settings. Social networks such as Facebook allow the user to control how their information is shared and who has access to it. These are often customizable and are found in the privacy section of the site. Remember, registering for some applications (apps) require you to change your privacy settings.
  • Be mindful when using check-ins like Facebook Places and foursquare. Letting an abusive partner know where you are could be dangerous. Also, always ask your friends if it’s ok for you to check them in. You never know if they are trying to keep their location secret.

If you are concerned that someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, do not ignore it. It Is important to express your concern and be ready to listen.

Living with Domestic Abuse can take many shapes and it can be difficult to understand the complexity of emotions and what it may take to navigate an abusive relationship.

These are some things you can do:

  • Ask her if everything is ok, let her know that you are worried.
  • Do not judge her if she denies that she is being abused and do not pressure her to admit it or go into any detail.
  • Respect her decisions whether that may be staying, leaving or even returning to the abusive partner. Empower her to make her choices even if you find them hard to understand.
  • Understand that leaving an abusive relationship is very hard and a time of increased risk for a woman. She may not be ready to take that step yet.
  • Do not speak poorly of the abusive partner. She may still love him and feel defensive.
  • Do stress that it is not her fault and that she does not deserve to be treated in this way.
  • Provide her with information of available supports and discuss options and access to services, such as Aoibhneas, and offer to go with her.

Living with Domestic Abuse can take many forms. Loss of social networks as a result of the abuse, isolation, loss of self-esteem, doubting yourself and feeling that you will not be believed are aggravating factors that lock her and her children in the abuse.  The most important thing for you is to continue to be supportive, believe her, acknowledge her right to live without abuse.

If you want to find more information on What to Do, call the helpline at 1800 767 767.

If you feel there is an immediate danger or require immediate assistance, please access safety and call 999 or 112.

Children living with Domestic Abuse experience an unpredictable environment and therefore may feel anxious and guarded.  Depending on your child’s age, you may see different reactions.

If you have a young child, bed-wetting or signs of severe separation anxiety may be things you have observed among other things such as difficulty going to sleep, staying sleep, excessive crying..

For older children, they may blame themselves for the abuse and carry feelings of guilt that in turn will impact their self-esteem. As a result, they may withdraw from school activities, display disruptive behaviour, have fewer friend and often complain of headaches or stomach-aches.

Children who witness or are victims of domestic abuse are at higher risk of physical and mental problems as adults.

There are however many ways in which you can help your child and offer a space of healing and recovery. Aoibhneas provides parenting supports and child-centred interventions to help you and your child navigate .


Living with Domestic Abuse is living with uncertainty, waiting for the next incident and holding the space in between.  Your body is constantly in alert, your mind is constantly searching for clues in anticipation, your relationships with friends, family, your children may be fractured; your attendance in work or education may also be suffering.

You may be suffering from physical injuries that require medical attention and you don’t want anyone to see; your health may suffer as a result of the trauma and high-level stress you live every day.

You may be experiencing anxiety, loss of self-esteem  and/or contemplating suicide or self-harm. Your sexual health may be impacted by being prevented from accessing to contraception, protection or forced to engage in unwanted sexual behaviour.  There may be drinking or drug misuse as a coping mechanism.

You may be fearing or experiencing the reality of poverty and homelessness as a result of domestic abuse

Your experience of domestic abuse and the impact on you is very individual.  Aoibhneas will work with you and with your experience to help you understand what it is that you are experiencing and how to start in your journey of recovery and freedom.

Taking the step to leave is a crucial decision. Leaving an abusive relationship can be dangerous as the abusive partner may sense a loss of control and seek to reassert it in extreme ways.  It is important that you plan your departure by taking this into consideration.

One of your options may be to come into refuge and our staff member will help you find a place. If you are thinking of leaving, these are some of the things you may need to take with you: Identification and other important papers, phone numbers of someone you trust and emergency numbers should you need them, spare set of house keys and car keys, any medicines that you or your children need as well as spare clothes, money and if you have it, proof of the abuse.

Call our Helpline on 1800 767 767 and talk to a trained member of staff who will take you through your options and work with you a safety plan so you can leave securely if this is what you are planning to do.

Aoibhneas refuge provides a safe space for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. The address is confidential and calls and access to refuge are vetted by the staff team in order to ensure the safety of refuge.  Our refuge is available 24hours/7 days a week all year around.

While refuge is considered crisis accommodation, families stay with us for an average of 6 to 8 weeks. During this time, our specialist staff provides a wide range of supports from practical things such as housing, doctor’s appointments and welfare entitlements to emotional supports that focus on understanding the impact of domestic abuse for you, for your children, for your family and assist you in your journey towards healing and freedom.

Call our Helpline at 1800 767 767 if you are looking to access refuge for you and your family.

Our refuge is located in North Dublin.  However, for confidentiality purposes we do not disclose our location until assessment and referral to our service has been completed.

Our refuge has a mixture of self-contained units with your own toilet and shower facilities, dining area, TV as well as access to a communal kitchen where you can cook a meal for you and your children, a communal living room and play grounds.

If you arrive with nothing, our staff team will provide you with access to food, toiletries, clothing and nappies.

Our specialist team will provide you with practical supports around housing, welfare, access to healthcare, legal information and so on as well as actively engage with you and your experiences of domestic abuse, understanding the impact and how to find healing and recovery.

You will be allocated your own Key worker who will meet with you once a week and offer you a range of supports.

We have a dedicated team of Social Care Workers that will focus on the needs of your children throughout their stay whether that may be playing, drawing or providing access to therapeutic interventions so that they can find their own way to heal.  Your child or children will also have their own Social Care Worker.

Breakfast and Homework clubs are take place daily, we also facilitate parenting programmes, relaxation and other activities that will help you create a sense of community and home.

During your stay in refuge, it will be up to you to choose how much support we give you.

Yes, it is very important to us that you are able to access our support where you are at in your own journey.

Our Community and Outreach team work with women and children in a variety of settings.  We can work with you post-refuge from your new location or indeed while still living at home with or without your abuser.

Our outreach and community workers determine the best way to contact you guided by you and taking into consideration all safety and confidentiality concerns. Our team will provide you with the time and space you need to make your decisions while providing with you emotional and practical supports that will assist you in your journey.

The Community and Outreach team will provide you with access to one-to-one support, peer support and awareness programmes focusing on understanding the impact of domestic abuse and your experiences.  In addition, the team can also provide support to your children and offer play and art therapy to you and your family.

To find out more, you can contact our Outreach and Community team at 01 912 1670.

Domestic Abuse can take many forms and it can happen to anyone. It can include one or any form of physical, sexual, psychological, verbal, emotional and financial abuse.

Many women experience Domestic Abuse without ever having been physically assaulted.   Coercive Control and other non-physical forms of abuse are as destructive as physical violence and more difficult to proof or come to terms with.  Instances of Gaslighting, for instance, where you are made to doubt that the abuse is happening and forced to believe that is all in your head, is extremely harmful, yet no bruising or tell-tale injuries can be demonstrated.

For some, domestic abuse exists only in pockets of our society and there is comfort in believing that it happens as a result of economic disadvantage, addiction and in families with a history of children being taken into care.

In reality, domestic abuse can happen to anyone, and it is rooted in the desire of one person taking control or power over another person.

If you alter your behaviour because you are frightened of how your partner will react, you are being abused.

If you answer yes to any of the questions below, you may be experiencing domestic abuse and coercive control:

  • Is your partner excessively jealous and possessive?
  • Is he charming one minute and abusive the next? Does he have sudden changes of mood – like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?
  • Is he stopping you from seeing your family and friends? Do you feel isolated?
  • Is he constantly criticizing you and putting you down in public?
  • Does he embarrass you, often in front of family and friends, so that you are seen in a bad light?
  • Does your partner play mind games and make you unsure of your own judgment?
  • Does he tell you you’re useless and couldn’t cope without him?
  • Does he control your money?
  • Does he tell you what to wear, who to see, where to go, what to think?
  • Does he pressure you to have sex when you don’t want to?
  • Are you starting to walk on eggshells to avoid making him angry?
  • Does he monitor your movements? Or check up on you via your email, Facebook, Twitter or by looking at your text messages?
  • Does he use anger and intimidation to frighten you and make you comply with his demands?
  • Has your partner ever threatened you, or intimidated you by using violent language or smashing up the furniture?
  • Are you forced to alter your behaviour because you are frightened of your partner’s reaction?
  • Are you blamed for their behaviour e.g. they say you were “asking for it” or deserved the abuse?

This may apply to an intimate relationship with your partner, but you may also identify with some of these behaviours from your parents or siblings or someone else in your family. If you believe you may be in an abusive relationship, we believe you.

Abuse is never your fault and you are not alone.  Call us at 1800 767 767.