Women's Aid today launched a fundraising appeal in aid of its National Freephone Helpline and Support Services. The appeal, which hopes to raise much needed funds for the national charity, will help the organisation provide free and confidential support to the 1 in 5 women experiencing domestic violence in Ireland. Margaret Martin, Director of Women's Aid, said that the organisation is operating as best it can in difficult financial circumstances. Ms Martin said, "Women's Aid is dedicated to answering as many calls from women experiencing domestic violence as we can. But funding cuts and a drop in fundraising means that our vital services are under severe pressure. We are launching this appeal to raise much needed funds for our services."
The appeal features Maureen's* account of sixteen years of severe physical abuse at the hands of her husband. The abuse started just after they were married, "The first time Dermot hit me was on our honeymoon. We were on our way back to our hotel room after a nice meal. I turned to ask him something and his fist smashed into my face. At first I was too shocked and numb to feel the pain. We were only just married for God's sake! It was like the whole fairytale had crumbled to dust in a split second. It turned out he thought I'd been, "too friendly" with the waiter at our table! I couldn't even remember his name. I was completely shocked and confused. And my cheekbone was fractured."
Unfortunately, this was just the beginning of the abuse and for years Maureen and her children lived in terror in their own home. As Maureen told Women's Aid, "Over the next sixteen years he hurt me with his words, his fists, his boots, his golf clubs... with whatever came to hand. I've lost count of the bones in my body he's cracked or broken, the number of times he's put me in hospital. And in all that time, he never once said he was sorry. As far as he was concerned, it was always my fault. It could be something I forgot to do for him. Someone I chatted to in a way he didn't like. Something I did the wrong way. Something I asked him when I 'should have known' he was in no mood to talk."
Maureen's husband frequently told her in graphic detail how he would kill her if she ever left. And he threatened the children too. Maureen was petrified he would act on these threats. After all, he'd used extreme violence many times before, once almost choking her to death with his bare hands. Ms Martin explained, "Last year many women told us that they had received death threats from their partners. And the shocking truth is that almost every month in Ireland a woman will be murdered - most likely in her own home."
Ms Martin continued, "Even though Maureen's story is unique to her, the terrible truth is that we take calls from women like Maureen every day. The women we speak to are too frightened, confused and feel terribly alone." Ms Martin added, "The volunteers and staff on our National Freephone Helpline hear far too many stories of seemingly perfect relationships that turn bad. And that's why we need support so badly. When women call us we listen to them. We offer support, information and encouragement to help keep them safe. We help find them refuge, we accompany them to court. We help build new lives, in new homes, where they and their children can be safe."
A kind doctor gave Maureen a card with the Women's Aid Helpline number on it and she called. As Maureen said, "They helped me so much. They told me, 'it's not your fault. You don't have to live with this. You're not alone. They told me about a refuge I could go to with the kids to be safe. That's how I got out. We are safe now and we're moving forward."
Ms Martin concluded, "We have an important budgetary review meeting in early July and we hope that our supporters will respond generously to this appeal and help relieve the pressure on all our services. With their support we will be able to continue to help women like Maureen escape and survive domestic violence."
The Women's Aid Helpline is open from 10am - 10pm, 7 days a week 1800 341 900
For more information contact Christina Sherlock at 01-8684721 or 087-9192457.
Notes to Editors/Producers