Christmas ‘most terrifying time of year’ for domestic abuse victims – Waterford event
Christmas is a time of joy for most people, but it’s the most terrifying time of the year for people who are trapped in abusive and violent relationships, a special event held in Waterford has heard.
Almost 100 people attended the event, titled ‘Learning from the Legacy of Loss’, which took place at Carrickphierish Library on Thursday as part of the international campaign ‘16 Days of Action Opposing Violence Against Women’.
Guest speakers at the event, which was organised by the Waterford Local Area Network Opposing Violence Against Women, included Priscilla Grainger, the founder of the Stop Domestic Violence in Ireland (SDVI) group which is campaigning for domestic violence to be made a criminal offence.
In a moving account of her own personal story, Priscilla told how she thought was in a perfectly normal and happy relationship “with the man I loved” … until he beat her senseless for the first time on the second night of their honeymoon.
She suffered horrific physical, emotional and financial abuse for more than a decade. The beatings even continued when she was pregnant with her daughter.
Priscilla told those gathered, many of whom are survivors of domestic violence, that she made many attempts to escape, but the support services simply did not exist at the time.
“I tried leaving many times, but the support just wasn’t there. I went to the local gardai on numerous occasions, but they just brushed me off, saying ‘sure it’s only a domestic’.”
Eventually, Priscilla and her daughter Ainie (pictured below), who is now 21, managed to escape, even though they were left penniless and with massive debts.
Now the mother and daughter have dedicated themselves to helping other women to escape their domestic hell through their organisation, Stop Domestic Violence in Ireland. The group says many women in Waterford and the rest of the country will continue to be violently abused unless the law is changed.
Priscilla added: “Domestic violence has to be made a crime for perpetrators and abusers to be arrested, charged and brought before the courts. This has got to be spoken about – the stigma of domestic violence must be removed.”
Priscilla said Christmas is the “worst time of year” for victims for domestic violence, and SDVII has reported a surge in calls over the past fortnight from desperate women and men seeking their help.
“Christmas brings it all back. I remember it was like waiting for a grenade to go off every year. They’d [abusers] rob, they’d steal, they’d take Santa’s bits and pieces, whatever they need.
“Even today when I hear Christmas music or ads on the TV about the racing on St Stephen’s Day … I have to turn it off.”
The event also heard some moving personal stories and accounts from local survivors of domestic abuse. Audio clips of interviews with women and children were played in which they relayed some of their own harrowing experiences.
Opening the event, Claire Coughlan of the Oasis House Women’s Refuge Waterford spoke of the disturbing modern methods some abusers are employing to control and entrap partners and wives, using “mobile apps” and dashcams on cars to monitor their movements.
“Leaving a relationship is not easy – leaving an abusive relationship is horrifyingly difficult. There’s the fear, the shame, the guilt …”
Local organisations dedicated to helping victims of domestic abuse were on hand to provide booklets and information sheets outlining a range of supports for victims of domestic abuse, and their families and loved ones.
One of the booklets, ‘Enough Is Enough’, produced by the Waterford Local Area Network Opposing Violence Against Women, is a powerful resource for anyone who finds themselves trapped in a domestic abuse situation.
Anne Scully of the Waterford Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre concluded the event by urging anyone who finds themselves trapped in violent relationships to remember: “It doesn’t have to be like this, you don’t have to live like this. It’s not your fault – and the support is out there for you.”
For more information, or if you are affected by domestic violence or abuse, you can contact the following:
Oasis House Women’s Refuge: 051 370367
Lo Call Number: 1890 264 364
Stop Domestic Violence in Ireland (SDVII): Founder Priscilla Grainger
Phone: 086 869 7022 or 087 212 4896
Web: www. stopdomesticviolence.ie
Waterford Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre
051 873 362
24-Hour Freephone Helpline: 1800 296 296
Waterford Women’s Centre
051 35 1918
24-Hour Helpline – 1850 60 90 90