Women Living in Real Fear for their Lives

10 Jun 2010

  • Women's Aid launches a Fundraising Appeal in aid of its National Freephone Helpline and Support Services.
  • Highlights the violent and threatening abuse faced by 1 in 5 women in Ireland.
  • Pressure on vital support services due to challenging financial circumstances.

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

  • *Maureen's story is based on real accounts as told to the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline and 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 Services.
  • Women's Aid is a leading national organisation, which provides support and information to women experiencing domestic violence. Women's Aid operates a National Freephone Helpline Service and a Dublin based One to One Support Service and Court Accompaniment Service. Women's Aid also refers to local refuges and support services around the country.
  • The Women's Aid Helpline 1800 341 900 is open 7 days a week, except Christmas Day, from 10am to 10pm.
  • People can support the Women's Aid Appeal by donating online at www.helplineappeal.org, or phoning Women's Aid on 01-8684721.
  • Research shows that 1 in 5 women in Ireland experience domestic violence.
  • The Women's Aid Helpline responded to 10,140 calls in 2008 during which 15,158 incidents of domestic violence were disclosed. There were 9,101 incidents of emotional abuse disclosed, 3,355 incidents of physical abuse, and 1,900 incidents of financial abuse. 802 incidents of sexual abuse, which is traditionally not disclosed by women experiencing domestic violence, were recorded, with 281 rapes within relationships being reported to the service.
  • Since the beginning of 1996, 162 women have been murdered in Ireland. 61% of women are murdered in their own homes. Of the resolved cases, 51% of women were murdered by a partner or ex-partner.
  • Women's Aid is often asked why women in Maureen's circumstances don't leave an abusive relationship. However, there is a growing awareness that stopping domestic violence isn't as simple as telling the woman to leave. As a key national organisation that has been supporting women for over 35 years, we know that leaving an abusive relationship is fraught with difficulty. In fact, the period during which a woman is planning or making her exit, is often the most dangerous for her and her children. And the abuse does not always end when the relationship does. We also know that almost one fifth of callers to our National Freephone Helpline in 2008 were experiencing abuse by their former partners including stalking, physical assault and abuse during access arrangements.
  • The recession has led to increased pressure on the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline and Support Services due to funding cuts and a drop in fundraising. While calls to the Helpline remain steady at an average of 10,000 calls a year, women are telling Women's Aid that their ability to escape domestic violence is being hampered by the recession. Women fear increased impoverishment, losing their home and the effect of poverty on their children. This barrier to leaving is exacerbated by the use of financial abuse by a controlling boyfriend, husband or partner. Many women tell us they were experiencing domestic violence before the recession but that the economic downturn was leading to more frequent abuse and more dangerous abuse. In particular, women disclosed that abusive men were using the recession to excuse their behaviour.
  • Women's Aid will launch its new website and Annual Statistics report for 2009 on 23rd June 2010.