Research Publication: 'It’s Just What Happens’ Girls and Young Women’s Views and Experiences of Violence in Northern Ireland

Date published: 07 September 2023

Research led by Dr Siobhan McAlister Prof. Dirk Schubotz and Dr Michelle Templeton from Queen’s University Belfast, and Dr Gail Neill Ulster University

Commentary by Dr Siobhan McAlister, Queens University

Over 260 girls and young women across Northern Ireland took part in the research, sharing their views and experiences of violence. That 73% of 12-17 year olds who completed our survey reported experiencing at least one form of violence in their lifetime, demonstrates the extent of violence against girls in our society.

Our discussions with a further 68 girls and young women (aged 12-25), revealed the persistent nature of ‘everyday violence’ in the form of catcalling and street-harassment. These experiences led young women to feel embarrassed, self-conscious, insecure, unsafe and hyper-vigilant when in public. This ‘everyday violence’, alongside receiving regular unsolicited messages and sexual images, were so common as to be deemed a ‘normal’ part of young women’s lives

The normalisation of some forms of violence, and lack of education on identifying and reporting violence were identified as barriers to help seeking among young women.

In the research many shared deeply personal and painful experiences of violence in the home, in relationships, in their communities and in their everyday lives. They did so in the hope that their experiences might help other girls and young women identify violence in their lives, and that their experiences would inform Northern Ireland’s first Strategy to End Violence Against Women and Girls.

We are indebted to all those who shared their views and experiences, and those who trusted us with their personal testimonies. We are thankful to the youth and community organisations that facilitated these young women in taking part in the research, and who hold and support them on a daily basis.

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