Women's Aid depends on your support
Our Current Donation Appeal
Christmas is a time when family and friends revel in the best of human nature. It’s a time for relaxed company and catching up with old friends.
But for women like Fiona*, who contacted us last year, Christmas was once a time when fear, intimidation, casual cruelty and sudden flashes of violence were directed towards her. Can you imagine the stress that can accompany a family occasion like Christmas being exacerbated by a creeping fear of domestic abuse? Violent partners can also use the holidays to threaten the wellbeing of children, using them as a pawns in what should be a time of joy.
Physical, emotional, sexual or financial abuse is part of an ongoing pattern, which doesn’t subside just because it’s the festive season. And it’s often in the aftermath of the holidays that we receive calls from women who find themselves in fear of assault at home or, having taken the brave step to leave a dangerously abusive situation, suddenly find themselves homeless and destitute.
Every day we receive over 30 calls from women like Fiona who find themselves frightened or alone. Just €74 euro from you would help us answer every one of those calls on any given day. Please help us to be there to respond to these urgent calls. Fiona has bravely volunteered to share her story, below.
We need your help in order to make sure we can answer the call of women like Fiona and give them the support they need to escape from an abusive relationship.
So while you prepare for the festive season amongst the crowds of family, friends and shoppers, we’d ask you to take a brief moment to think about women who find themselves completely isolated, feeling trapped within an abusive relationship. We encounter women throughout the year who face a constant threat to their physical and emotional wellbeing. For the brave women who have decided to pick up the phone and speak to us, our response is vital.
Our dedicated staff and volunteers undergo intensive training to be able to deal with the calls that flood in from women all over the country to the Women’s Aid Helpline. Every call that goes unanswered from one of these women is a call too many. It’s our goal to be able to answer the phone every time someone like Fiona calls us looking for help.
Your gift will help us to do just that.
The first time their eyes met was through a crowd of fellow students in a college canteen when she was just twenty-two. While some people found him aloof, Fiona was drawn to his enigmatic charm. He spoke in a considered voice and seemed genuinely interested in Fiona and their future together, despite their youth. It wasn’t long before they were married.
Perhaps the first mild alarm bells rang when Tony proclaimed that he didn’t want Fiona socialising without him and discouraged her from seeing her friends. She reasoned that this possessiveness was surely an indication of his need for her. It may have been misguided but she believed things would get better.
Despite some lingering doubts, Fiona was convinced that things would improve when they bought an old house together to renovate. Quite soon, she became pregnant but, far from signalling an end to the controlling behaviour she had glimpsed, this new development seemed only to intensify it.
Tony habitually accused her of being lazy, deceitful or dishonest in darkly threatening tones. The slightest insignificant detail was now enough to spark a furious rage. Fiona was now living in a state of apprehension, steeling herself for the next outburst and fearful during her pregnancy.
One evening, Tony lashed out and punched the heavily pregnant Fiona in the stomach. Despite almost acclimatising to his unpredictability, a deeply shocked Fiona was shaken to the core. Tony would fly into a rage regularly – a rage provoked by Fiona “setting him off”. Once he had calmed down, a contrite Tony would be remorseful for a short time until the sequence repeated itself once again with a sickening predictability.
Their baby was not the unifying force she had hoped. In fact, once Tony Junior was born, the infant added another dimension to Tony’s manipulation of his wife. He controlled the family finances and isolated her from her family and friends. Fiona now had to beg Tony for the money needed to provide the most basic childcare essentials. Criticism of Fiona as a useless mother was added to the ever-growing list of her faults that she would regularly be reminded of. The continuous sniping and chipping away at her self-esteem left Fiona feeling trapped and abandoned within what had once been her dream home.
On another occasion, as she tried to calm their baby, Tony grabbed him from her arms and threw him into the cot. He punched her and dragged her from the room, threatening to throw her on the streets. He pinned her against the wall, placed his hands around her neck and squeezed the breath from her. Fiona felt feint and on the edge of consciousness.
She thought she might die there with the last sounds echoing in her ears the distressed cries of her baby from the room above. Suddenly, Tony let go of her and she gasped for breath as he stormed off, chastising her for once again provoking him to such a degree.
As soon as she could catch her breath, Fiona ran upstairs, grabbed her child and left. Despite having nowhere to go, she resolved to leave there and then. She didn’t know where she was going or what lay ahead but she did know her life was in danger if she stayed. She closed the latch quietly behind her and walked out into an uncertain future…
When Fiona called Women’s Aid, she felt understood and free to talk for the first time in months. We were able to contact a refuge on her behalf to deal with her immediate safety needs and arranged to meet her first thing the next day.
Over the following weeks, we were able to help navigate the practical arrangements of separating from Tony as well as providing her with emotional support. Fiona applied for a barring order against Tony and Women’s Aid accompanied her to court.
Things are now a struggle financially for Fiona and Tony Junior but, having taken the first steps away from a spiralling and destructive relationship, she is optimistic about the future and looking forward to reclaiming her life.
Tragically, hers is neither an isolated nor unfamiliar tale. Every woman’s story and situation is unique but what unites them all is the need for support at a crucial time in their lives.
When a woman in Fiona’s situation finds the strength to take decisive action to remove herself from harm, it is vitally important that the Woman’ Aid helpline is able to answer her call.
*Fiona's story is based on real accounts as told to the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline and One to One Support Services. Specific details and circumstances have been changed in the interests of protecting identity and to preserve the confidential nature of Women's Aid Direct Services.