by Marie Mulholland, Co-ordinator, West Cork Women Against Violence
*For the purposes of this article I will be referring to my area of expertise and experience which is of women and children victims of male perpetrators.
There are very real and understandable fears right now about domestic abuse during this period of restrictions and lockdown. Those fears are based on knowledge and concrete evidence of what is possible when an abuser has total control over his victims and no boundaries or societal influences to keep him in check. Lockdown is the ultimate power trip for a man who operates on controlling his victim, undermining her sense of self and sanity. There are no witnesses because we are all at home behind our own doors- isolated, apart.
The children are not going to school and so cannot escape the tensions and fear at home or where a sensitive teacher might ask them if everything is ok. Grandparents and friends’ homes are no longer available as places of refuge and comfort.
For women who live with an abuser this is the hell that until now has been the stuff of their worst nightmares. There is nowhere to run, there is no space to think, no privacy nor permission to make a phone call, no opportunity to ask for help, no means of escape. If she has children, they are her first and last priority – preventing them from becoming the target of his ire and unreasonable behaviour. She will save them from that, even at the cost of making herself a bigger target to distract him.
We know that 16 women have been murdered during the lockdown in the UK in the past 3 weeks. Twenty women murdered in Turkey in 21 days. If we act to prevent it, we will not have to face those kind of consequences in Ireland and we can certainly take steps to ensure it does not happen in West Cork. Together, we can stop this but it needs ALL of us as as a community to be alert. Call the Gardai if you have any concerns about a neighbour, family relative or friend. Do not be afraid of being wrong, be afraid of being right and having done nothing about it.
If you are reading this and you are living in an abusive relationship where there is violence or coercive control, please know we are still here – West Cork Women Against Violence are here for you. Our service is still open and we will help you. Our support workers are available from Mon- Fri 9am-5pm by phone or to answer whatever form of communication you use. You DO have options, there are supports to keep you safe, we even have a safe place for you to stay if it comes to that, and if you have children we can keep them safe with you too. If you have any safe way to contact us – email, text, phone, facebook message. I know that you need to be careful, so always delete your browsing history on any device you use. If you can only call at night-time or at a weekend, contact the 24/7 Women’s Aid Helpline 1800 341 900. Neither the Women’s Aid Helpline nor our own Helpline 1800 203 136 need you to have credit on your phone- they are free. If leaving a message or emailing try to remember to let us know if there is a safe time or way to contact you back. If there isn’t- call the Gards. They can contact us for you and they can help if there is a continued risk to you or your children and you want to leave. They know of the arrangements we have made to provide a safe place to stay and can get you there if need be.
I know it is very scary right now. I know you think you are alone, I know you think there is nothing to be done and nobody cares about you or what happens to you – but that’s what HE wants you to believe. Please hear me. Hear me when I say we care and we can and we will help. We are here for you, we will only do what you feel safe with. You are a survivor. West Cork Women Against Violence are still here and together we can help you get through this.
Marie Mulholland, Co-ordinator