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He locked the door, pointed the knife at me and said 'You’re not going anywhere'

Women’s Aid will field calls 24 hours a day from 2016 onwards.

Dont Be Afraid Womens Aid-5 TV3 presenter Elaine Crowley at the Don't Be Afraid launch. Source: PAUL SHARP/SHARPPIX

THE WOMEN’S AID national freephone helpline will become a 24-hour service in 2016.

Don’t Be Afraid, a campaign aimed at encouraging domestic abuse victims to break their silence and seek support was launched yesterday.

The charity noted that one in five women in Ireland is affected by domestic abuse, but more than one third of those will never speak to anyone about it.

Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid, said the organisation understands “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 be 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.

“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.”

‘You’re not going anywhere’

As part of the campaign, Women’s Aid has released a case study based on accounts told to the helpline.

Siobhán’s relationship began as a happy one, but gradually declined and her partner became mentally and finally physically abusive. She said that calling Women’s Aid probably saved her life.

Dont Be Afraid Womens Aid-2 (1) Margaret Martin from Women's Aid and TV3 presenter Elaine Crowley. Source: PAUL SHARP/SHARPPIX

Here is Siobhan’s story, in her own words:

“The first sign that something wasn’t quite right was when Robert offered to start buying all my clothes. He said I wasn’t making the most of myself, and that he could help me look better. Naturally, I told him thanks, but no thanks. This only seemed to frustrate him.

“Next he turned on my friends. I was taken aback at first, but he would say: ‘If you truly love me, like I love you, you’d want to spend your time with me, not your friends.’

“Then the flowers and compliments dried up, and a nasty side to his personality crept in. He’d laugh at my opinions, dismissing whatever I said as though I was stupid. He put my job down, saying that what I did was worthless, and eventually convinced me to leave work and stay at home.

He became more moody and unpredictable, flying into rages without provocation.

“Then one day things took a more sinister turn. I called him in work about an overdue bill which had arrived – he was angry, saying it was none of my concern, then he just hung up the phone.

“I’d almost forgotten by the time he came home, but when he walked in the front door he went ballistic.

I’ve never been able to handle confrontations, so I told him I was leaving. With that, all hell broke loose. He shouted and roared at me, grabbed a long knife from the kitchen and completely destroyed the living room, slashing furniture and smashing ornaments. Then he locked the front door, pointed the knife at me and said: ‘You’re not going anywhere.’

“That was probably the longest night of my life. But amazingly, not another word was ever spoken about it. Somehow, I buried it inside me and carried on.”

“Then three months later, on my birthday, everything came to a head. It was late evening and Robert seemed more tense than usual. He gave me my birthday present, a bottle of perfume. In my nervousness taking the bottle out of the box, I dropped it on the floor.

He swore and shouted me for being stupid and what happened next was so quick I still don’t remember it properly. One minute I was standing there watching the perfume bottle shatter then bang, I was sitting on the kitchen floor wondering what the hell had happened.

“The next day, while Robert was in work, I stared at a Women’s Aid card that a friend had given me a few months earlier and contemplated my life. I ‘d gone from being a strong, independent woman to this quivering wreck with no friends, no job, and no confidence. I felt so low that I’d actually spent most of the morning searching the house for pills for an overdose.

shutterstock_151887428 File photo Source: Shutterstock/LoloStock

“Fortunately I called Women’s Aid instead. The woman on the end of the line just listened. And it all came pouring out. And when I’d finished she said four simple words: ‘That’s what they do.’ She didn’t mean men. She meant abusers.

And she wasn’t just referring to that one punch. She meant the ongoing mental cruelty, humiliation and emotional manipulation I’d lived through. It was a real shock to discover I’d been in an abusive relationship for two years without even knowing it.

“I still think of that day as the day my life changed. After calling Women’s Aid I went straight upstairs, packed my things and left.

“I have never looked back. But without that call to Women’s Aid I believe, that either at my own hand or Robert’s, I’d probably not have made it out of that relationship alive.”

Siobhán’s story is based on real accounts as told to the Women’s Aid national freephone helpline and support services. Specific details and circumstances have been changed in the interests of protecting identity and to preserve the confidential nature of Women’s Aid services.

The Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline can be reached on 1800 341 900 from 10am-10pm. It will become a 24-hour service from 1 January 2016. Alternatively, you can email helpline@womensaid.ie.

Anyone who wishes to donate to Women’s Aid can do so on its website donate or by sending donations directly to Women’s Aid, 5 Wilton Place, Dublin 2.

You can also text ACTION to 50300 to donate €4. (100% of your donation goes to Women’s Aid across most network operators. Some operators apply VAT which means a minimum of €3.25 will go to Women’s Aid. Service provider: LIKECHARITY. Helpline: 0766805278.)

Read: Tallaght women’s refuge to close doors due to lack of funding

Opinion: Young girls are being told who to talk to and where to go by their boyfriends

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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