Dr. Mary Allen - An Appreciation
It was with deep sadness that Women’s Aid learned of the death of Dr. Mary Allen last week (Tuesday 25th June 2013). Mary was a respected college lecturer in the School of Applied Social Science in UCD and had previously worked as a Senior Medical Social Worker & Deputy Head of Department in St. James’ Hospital. Mary had a long association with Women’s Aid both in the past when she was seconded to the organisation from St. James’ and then managed the Women’s Aid Training Unit from 2000 – 2002 and more recently as a voluntary member and Chair of the Women’s Aid Board of Directors. During this time Mary made an important and marked contribution to the better understanding of domestic violence and its impact on women and children, to the improvement of the responses to and services for those affected and to the strategic direction of Ireland’s leading domestic violence organisation.
Margaret Martin, Director of Women's Aid said, "During her first period with Women’s Aid Mary oversaw a key milestone with the development of the organisation’s specialised training for health professionals which recognised their key role as one of the most frequent points of contact for abused women. With Mary’s expertise and support Women’s Aid developed and delivered training for A&E, maternity, student doctors, public health nurses and mental health professionals and also organised an international conference in Ireland which examined the health consequences of domestic violence. Mary’s work with the health sector highlighted the real differences that individuals within the system can make to women experiencing domestic violence. This vital training work continues to this day."
Ms Martin continued, "More recently in 2007, we were very fortunate to have Mary join the Board of Women’s Aid and later become Chair. She gave her time and expertise freely during very challenging years for the organisation as we dealt with the impact of the recession and funding cuts but Mary’s calm and reassuring presence helped to get us through very difficult times. It was a sad day when ill-health led to her resignation in February this year. One key achievement of the Board under Mary’s direction was the securing of a permanent home for Women’s Aid on Wilton Place by the Grand Canal. Our new surroundings provide a more central and welcoming space for women accessing our services and more supportive and pleasant environment for our frontline staff engaged in very challenging work on the National Freephone Helpline and one to one support services."
Ms Martin added, "Over the past few days I have spoken to many current and former colleagues who had the privilege to know and work with Mary on the issue of domestic violence and a picture very quickly emerged of a deeply intelligent and authoritative woman with an independent mind and a gentle manner. Mary was a committed feminist with a deep belief in equality for women and social justice. She was a woman of many parts and many talents and known and loved for her wicked sense of humour."
Mary’s deeply respectful and sensitive disposition and her probing mind were no more evident than in her last piece of research on domestic violence Journeys to Safety (2011) which aimed to end the unhelpful and uncritical professional interventions that often further stigmatise and even endanger abused women. Arising from interviews with ten women who had experienced abuse from their intimate partners, Mary was able to share with us insights into how abusive relationships started out, how long women had lived with the abuse, the types of abuse experienced including emotional abuse which she described as a ‘deeper and more central form of abuse’.
Critically Mary’s research challenged the myth of women as passive victims by shining a spotlight on women’s every day resistance to the violence and control perpetrated on them and their children. Mary urged us to listen to and respect each woman’s voice and give it a central role in order to protect her and children from domestic violence in the long term.
Ms Martin concluded, "As we mourn the loss of an exceptional domestic violence champion we know Mary’s legacy will continue to inspire the work of Women’s Aid to stop domestic violence in Ireland."
Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900, 10am to 10pm, 7 days a week.
For more information contact Christina Sherlock, Communications and Campaigns Officer, Women's Aid, on 01-6788858 or 087-9192457.