In this Women’s Live’s, Women’s Voice’ feature in support of the 16 days of action campaign Donegal local Jenna talks about the issue of domestic abuse, highlighting why it’s so important to understand the realities of victims and survivors.
Did you know Ireland is currently taking part in the annual International campaign known as the 16 Days of Action? This internationally recognised campaign runs from 25th November (UN Day For the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10th December 2020 (International Human Rights Day). It is a campaign used to highlight the issue of gender based violence and an organising strategy by individuals and organisations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. (UN Women)
Gender-Based Violence refers to “violence that is directed against a person on the basis of gender or sex and includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other denials of freedom” (cosc.ie)
And while both men and women can experience gender based violence the reality however remains that in 2020 it is women and girls who are disproportionately affected by this violence. With 1 in 4 women in Ireland having experienced domestic abuse by a current or former partner. (Women’s Aid)
Why doesn’t she just leave him?
By nature people are quick to form judgments. Have you ever sat just drinking a coffee and watching strangers pass by as you contemplate what kind of people they may be? I think it’s normal for us to create stories in our minds now and again about the lives of others and the characteristics they may possess.
Or maybe you can think of a time when you have read or watched a news story on television and had speculated about those involved and how they might have found themselves in a certain situation.
We take in what we can see in front of us and somehow our brains begin to connect the dots and form opinions about people. Maybe in some cases we judge correctly but in others we are just guessing without any real depth of knowledge.
Perhaps it is something we can teach ourselves to refrain from doing. Maybe sometimes we need to take a step back and really truly think about the person we are making the assumptions about.
“Before you judge my life, my past or my character, walk in my shoes, walk the path I have travelled, live my sorrow, my doubts, my fear, my pain and my laughter” – Unknown
After my sister’s death last year I learned a lot of life lessons that I’d never imagined I would have to. I had to face things that I would never have dreamed could have happened to our family. I definitely learned that we don’t know what is going on in other people’s lives and the difficulties they face.
Since Jasmine died I think that people feel as though they can talk to me about their own problems more so than a person who hasn’t experienced this tragedy. Through this difficult journey I have had several women talk to me about their past experiences with domestic violence or the current situation that they are in.
I truly don’t think that enough people are aware of the extent of people who are having to deal with gender based violence in their lives. So many of the victims who I have spoken to are probably the women who society would ‘never expect’ would find themselves in a situation like that. But unfortunately this type of violence is happening more than we think.
Why doesn’t she just leave him? A question that has probably been asked a million times. Maybe to some people this is a logical question. Just walk away. Simple? Every million times this question is asked there are another million responses as to why this question isn’t in fact helpful or logical.
When I was asked to take part in 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence I knew that I had to take this opportunity to share some of the reasons that the women I have spoken to share with me.
One of the reasons that came up over and over again was because of the children.
“A mother will do almost anything to protect her child and I stayed because I didn’t know what could happen if I tried to leave.” – Lady 1
“I felt as though I was trapped and if I moved then my children would be in danger” – Lady 2
Another reason that we discussed was the guilt that the victim is made to feel.
“I stayed with him because he said he was going to kill himself and it would be all my fault ” – Lady 3
This type of threat was also used against a victim but while adding the extra danger by involving the child. “I stayed with him because he threatened to kill himself or run away with our daughter if I left” – Lady 4
Other reasons why these women stayed included an immense sense of fear. A feeling of shame about the situation they are in and also financial constraints. If they left, where would they go, how could they leave without the money to escape.
But all of the victims I spoke to did express something that it is so important, that gender based violence becomes something that people are more aware of. That questions and judgmental statements aren’t helpful in preventing it from happening. Awareness is key and in order to help these people we must understand that everything isn’t always black and white and there are so many factors involved in these extremely dangerous circumstances.
So why doesn’t she just leave him? It’s most definitely not that simple.
Please know you are not alone, there are people you can talk to. If you or any one you know have been effected by domestic abuse you can find support with the following services;
Local county wide support in Donegal
Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service is a frontline service providing crisis accommodation, 24 hr helpline, support (1800262677) and information and outreach service throughout the County to women and their children who are victims of domestic violence.
Donegal Women’s Centre operate a domestic violence counselling service delivered in the Donegal Women’s Centre with outreach centres in, Killybegs, Ballyshannon, Falcarragh, Dungloe and Carndonagh. Call 074 91 24985 for appointment or more information
National support in Ireland
Women’s Aid Ireland Freephone Helpline (1800 341 900) operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and provides support and information to callers experiencing abuse from intimate partners.
The National Office for Victims of Abuse provides assistance, support and advice for people in abusive relationships. Freephone 1800 252 524.
Anyone who may wish to report or discuss an incident of Domestic or Sexual Violence can contact 112/999 or their local Garda Station.
NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.