Today, Monday 5th September 2016 at 11am, Women’s Aid, the national domestic service support organisation, will launch its extended National Freephone Helpline as a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week service. Dr. Katherine Zappone, T.D., Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, will officially mark the extension of the vital service which had been a 12 hours service since its inception in 1992. The Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline became a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week service in January 2016 despite an unexpected 20% cut in Government funding in 2015. The organisation reveals that it now answer 41 calls a day from women experiencing domestic violence. Today, the organisation will also launch its redesigned website and start the new “The Violence Doesn’t Stop. We Won’t Stop” public awareness campaign. It will also state its intention to extend the availability of its specialist support service to women seeking support online.
Speaking ahead of the event, Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid, says that the demand of the new ‘out of hours’ night service has been phenomenal: “In the first six months of going 24/7, we have answered 1,957 calls in our ‘out of hours’ night service. Think of all those voices, desperate for help in the middle of the night and the early morning. Women who needed someone to answer the phone to them. Someone to listen, believe and support. We know there will be many more. Our resources were over-stretched before we suffered funding cuts. However, we are determined to keep going, to keep answering the phone day and night.”
Women’s Aid estimates that becoming a 24/7 service will cost an additional €75,000 this year and calls on the Government to fully support its vital work. Ms Martin details: “Providing a 24/7 National Domestic Violence Helpline not only meets a demand that we know is there but Ireland has an obligation to provide 24 hour specialist support to victims of domestic violence under the EU Victims Directive. To meet the demand and to meet its international obligations, Women’s Aid insists that adequate funding is forthcoming.”
As a part of its improved 24hr National Freephone Helpline service, Women’s Aid has redesigned its website (www.WomensAid.ie) as a first point of contact for women who need support. Through the site, all women are encouraged to call the 24hr helpline regardless of how serious they might think their situation is. Ms Martin explains: “The newly redesigned helpline website offers immediate information on how to ring our helpline in addition to useful information on identifying abusive behaviour and personal stories from women who have rebuilt their lives with the support of Women’s Aid. The website is visited on average 460 times a day and we know that it is for many women, a lifeline, online. We hope to extend that lifeline next year as we explore options of providing support online, via text or instant messaging.”
Women’s Aid Helpline and website are lifelines for women living in fear of their partners and both saw a spike in contacts in the wake of the recent murder-suicide tragedy in Cavan. Ms Martin details: “Domestic violence kills women and it kills children too. In the wake of the murder of Clodagh, Liam, Niall and Ryan Hawe by their husband and father, Alan, we’ve experienced a spike in Helpline calls and 30% more contacts with our website. Our staff and volunteers on the 24hr helpline are supporting who women afraid of their partners who have threatened to kill them, the kids or themselves. And their fears are founded on reality. In 2015, women disclosed to us on 970 occasions, that their abusive partners threatened to kill them, their children and their families. There were 579 additional disclosures of assaults with weapons, threats with weapons and being strangled and smothered.”
Ms Martin adds: “The threat of violence against women and children always hangs in the air and women disclosed being punched, cut with knives, hit with golf clubs, scalded, and strangled. This is a stark reminder of the dangerous and sometimes fatal nature of domestic abuse and the heartbreak it brings for family, friends and communities.
Minister Zappone, T.D., will also help Women’s Aid launch its ‘The Violence Doesn’t Stop. We Won’t Stop’ awareness campaign which encourages women to seek help as soon as they can. Ms Martin outlines: “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. Our campaign speaks directly to women in the hope they will call us."
Ms Martin concludes: “Women experiencing domestic abuse are in a bleak place and it is difficult to find a way out. But we know that there is hope and Women’s Aid is here to help. We know how vital our services are. One caller summed it up perfectly saying ‘for the first time in my life I was able to tell someone what was happening. Women’s Aid didn’t judge or blame me. They just listened.’”
Words like these inspire us all, Board, staff and volunteers to continue to listen, believe and support women, every single time.
Women’s Aid appealed for donation from the public. Anyone who wishes to donate to their service can do so online at www.womensaid.ie/donate or by sending donations direct to Women's Aid, 5 Wilton Place, Dublin 2. You can also text ACTION to 50300 to donate €4 to Women’s Aid.*
For more information contact Christina Sherlock, Communications and Campaigns Officer, 01-678 8858 or 087 919 2457. Email email@example.com.
Launch details: 11am, Monday 5th September 2016, at Women’s Aid, 5 Wilton Place, Dublin 2. Pictures: Will be sent to picture desks and available from Lorraine O’Sullivan, 087 234 1584, firstname.lastname@example.org from 1pm, Monday 5th September 2016.
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