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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 18 December, 2018
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'I was ashamed and I worried I wouldn’t be believed about domestic violence - so I stayed longer than I should have'

Priscilla Grainger writes about her experience of domestic violence and why she set up a support group for people who have been affected by it.

Priscilla Grainger

WE HAVE ALARMS on our cars and homes, even our mobile phones are secured – but the same protection doesn’t apply to the humans living within our own homes.

Why should men and women be subjected to violence in our own homes without adequate support and protection from the justice system even when we get to the stage of reporting it?

Why should those who choose to abuse (and it is their choice) be permitted to force innocent children witness emotional, psychological, financial and physical abuse in their own home?

Why does the court system permit those who choose to abuse to get away with it through their manipulation of a system that isn’t remotely fit for purpose?

Domestic violence laws

Stop Domestic Violence In Ireland was set up by my daughter Ainie and I to help other victims make their way from a life that nobody deserves to safety. We’ve helped many people at different stages from acknowledging that they are in an abusive relationship to planning their exit to dealing with court dates, right through to making new starts in a new home or finalising a divorce. 

Domestic violence affects females and males in all walks of life, in all sections of society. 

The Domestic Violence Act 1996 was enacted “to make provision for the protection of a spouse and any children or other dependent persons, and of persons in other domestic relationships” – but in reality very little has actually changed in the intervening years.

Successive governments are compiling reports and reports. Meanwhile Domestic Violence is on the increase.

I was once dismissed as a ‘scorned wife’ – not exactly words to encourage you to trust a garda with helping you out of a difficult situation.

Their suggestion of getting counselling wasn’t a lot more helpful at the time either yet it remains an attitude that continues to exist at many levels, the abuser can spin a tale and the victim is essentially sent off to find help for themselves as the law cannot protect them adequately.  

Based on our own experience and the reports of many of those we’ve helped here at Stop Domestic Violence In Ireland, some gardaí could learn to show a little more compassion towards victims. It’s incredibly difficult to take those first steps out of an abusive relationship and if a victim is greeted with anything less than understanding it can further damage their escape from abuse.

We would feel that gardaí need more comprehensive training on Domestic Violence in particular, not just a few months whilst at college in Templemore before their career even begins as the reality is always very different to the textbook. 

It should be ongoing throughout their career as when they learn first-hand how it impacts on lives everyday they’ll be in a better position to assist and contribute to policies that make a difference for both victims and those who are restricted by inadequate legislation.

There are some gardaí who are extremely helpful in their roles but their hands are quite literally tied because resources are stretched and those who choose to abuse are experts at manipulating a system which is not fit for purpose.

I believe we now have a proactive Garda Commissioner in Drew Harris but my concern is that while discussions continue and further reports are produced, lives will continue to be lost. 

We need action, not words. We need resources allocated to making domestic violence the actual crime it should be and not this continuance of keeping it out of sight until the next victim’s name comes up in the media.

Family court centres

My daughter Ainie and I spent a day in New York with the NYPD, where we visited Family Court Centres in Brooklyn to learn a little more about how domestic violence is dealt with in the US.  While they don’t have a perfect situation it is taken a lot more seriously with assistance made to the victims as they make their way through the court system;

A victim does not have to face their abuser, a witness to an incident can speak on their behalf – here in Ireland you have to sit in a waiting room next to your abuser on the day you attend court.

Items which have been used as weapons such as broken glass can be used as evidence, something we don’t have the option to do here in Ireland leaving the courtroom open to both sides stating their case.

An abuser is arrested and not allowed out on bail until their court date. Here in Ireland you can call the gardaí after you’ve been attacked and your attacker can be left to stay in the family home with you if you don’t have the paperwork in place to have the attacker removed from the home.

It’s difficult to leave

It’s incredibly difficult for a victim of abuse to leave. People always ask why somebody stays and there are many reasons, each individual to the victim but these would include: children, finances, accommodation and fear – yes, you can be afraid of a person but also afraid to leave because you know there will be repercussions.

I had mentally planned my escape for so long but I was afraid to leave, I didn’t know where I would go or who could help me or my daughter. I’d been broken down mentally,

I had no confidence and my self-esteem was at zero.  I was told by my abuser that everybody hated me. I was embarrassed, I was ashamed and I worried I wouldn’t be believed so I stayed so much longer than I should have.

Toxic relationships will never end well, but unless you’ve been there it’s impossible to comprehend the trauma that bonds you to your abuser who has you beaten down in so many ways – physically, financially, psychologically – that you feel unable to leave even when you fear for your safety every day. 

Now I can see I should have left sooner but at the time I couldn’t. I had to make the right decision based on what I knew then and how I could cope.

Priscilla and Ainie Grainger feature in a documentary on TG4 airing on Wednesday 21st November at 9.30pm where those who have witnessed domestic abuse first hand speak out. Stop Domestic Violence in Ireland Facebook page and website

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Priscilla Grainger

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