Today, Monday 10th September 2012, Women's Aid marks the 20th year of its National Freephone Helpline by launching its new 'Don't Be Afraid' national public awareness advertising campaign. The campaign encourages women living with domestic abuse to speak up and to call the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900. One in five women in Ireland is affected by domestic abuse but a third of those will never tell anyone what is happening to them. Women's Aid hopes that the new campaign will show women that they do not have to suffer domestic abuse in silence. A four week long radio, online and poster national advertising campaign includes a mail out of information packs to nearly 3,000 professionals who support women affected by domestic abuse and to places where women seek help and information. The special packs include posters, leaflets and other items promoting the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline.
Speaking at the start of the campaign, Margaret Martin, Director of Women's Aid said: "We understand how difficult it is for women experiencing domestic abuse to talk about what is happening. Many women are afraid that they will not be believed or that they will blamed for the abuse. Others struggle to find the words to describe their situation. All too often, women feel alone and isolated, unaware that help is available or unable to make sense of what is being done to them."
Ms Martin explained, "It is our sincere hope that through our radio advertising we can speak directly to a woman who is living in fear, and who may be sitting at home, or listening in her car on the way to work or on the school run, and tell her that she is not alone. Like many women who ring our National Freephone Helpline, she may be too upset to talk about what she is going through. Don't worry. That's okay. We're ready to listen and help her find the words she needs."
Speaking in support of the campaign, leading RTÉ broadcaster Miriam O'Callaghan said: "I am delighted to support the Women's Aid 'Don't Be Afraid' campaign urging women to speak up about domestic abuse. I know women are famous for talking to each other about all that life throws at us but in the case of domestic abuse, many women feel unable to tell even their closest family or friends. Others do not even know how to start to describe the terrible abuse they are suffering. But if any woman is feeling isolated, alone and fearful of their boyfriends, partners or husbands, don't be afraid to call Women's Aid. They are there to listen to you and to support you. It is a first step to a safer life."
Ms Martin agreed: "When a woman rings our Helpline the person on the other end of the line will understand her situation, will not judge her and will not tell her what to do. We will listen and support her and all calls are treated in the strictest confidence."
In 2011, the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline answered over 11,000 calls from thousands of abused women living in a constant state of fear. Fear of the next beating, the next attempted strangulation, the fear that the next attack will result in serious injury or their death. According to Ms Martin, "The sad fact is that domestic abuse can happen to any woman, in any home and at any stage in her life. In 2011, women disclosed that they were punched, slapped, kicked, held down and strangled and beaten with household items. Women told us that they were constantly belittled, criticised, blamed and stalked and harassed via technology both during the relationship and after leaving. Women reported that they had been raped, sexually assaulted and given no option but to comply with their abusers sexual demands. Women's freedom and options had been curtailed because of sustained financial abuse including being denied household monies, being forced to take out loans in their names only and having their employment jeopardised."
The Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline has been operating since 1992 and its excellence in providing support and information to women affected by domestic abuse was recently recognised though accreditation by The Helplines Association, the membership and good practice organisation for all helplines in the UK, Ireland and beyond.
The Women's Aid 'Don't Be Afraid' National Public Awareness Campaign runs from today, Monday 10th September until 8th October. The campaign is funded by Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (www.cosc.ie).
The Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 is open from 10am to 10pm, 7 days a week and is available, free of charge, throughout the Republic of Ireland.
For more information contact Christina Sherlock or Laura Shehan on (01) 678 8858 or (087) 919 2457.
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