A recent seminar on domestic violence heard from two women who have suffered from domestic abuse. Here are their stories.
When Áine (not her real name) decided to break away from her violent partner, she was determined to stay in her home but he hung around constantly outside.
“I couldn’t go out,” she says. “I’d look out the window and he’d be there. I called the guards and they came and told me, we can’t be here all night, call us if you need us.
“I said: ‘What if I can’t get to the phone?’ They just said: ‘We’re not babysitters.’
“I woke up one night and he was strangling me. Eventually I had to leave.”
She and her young child tried to stay in refuges in her native Dublin but her ex-partner took to standing outside so she fled to another county but he continues to torment her.
“l’ve been beaten, raped, threatened, terrorised, and he hasn’t spent a day behind bars,” says Áine. “I’ve had protection and barring orders but the hearings are in Dublin so I have to travel every time and then it’s always adjourned.
“He uses the court against me. There’s an access order and he makes an application to amend it — to change the time or something — just to drag me to Dublin.
“He’s in the criminal courts for stalking me but he moves around once he knows there’s a summons coming for him so the guards don’t bring him to court in time and it gets thrown out on the technicality.
“I have to stand up in court — and I’m just a witness so I have no legal representation — and look at him with his lawyers and he’s full of anger against me. And then I have leave court with him coming out behind me and it’s terrifying.
“There needs to be a zero tolerance policy to domestic violence because it’s a living nightmare and it’s not going to get any better unless it’s taken more seriously.”
As a successful businesswoman, Wexford estate agent Karol Jackson presented a confident, capable front but for 23 years she lived in fear and violence.
Eight years ago, she took the brave step to take her three children and leave her relationship, but her struggles were far from over.
“I immediately became embroiled in a system that does not work efficiently or correctly,” she says.
From the very start, she says she was facing a set of prejudices. “Obviously appearing in court in my usual business attire did not fit the stereotype of the downtrodden woman,” says Karol.
Worst of all, she was told not to open her mouth and after eight years and 44 court cases, she still feels her voice is not heard in the justice system. Rather than offer her reassurance, she says the system filled her with “anguish, fear and trauma”.
She is grateful for the Wexford Women’s Refuge, which made it possible to escape but she believes there needs to be fundamental changes in law and attitudes around domestic violence.
“Institutional and church abuse was named and shamed and eventually something was done about it. It’s now time to do something about domestic violence.”
READ MORE: Victims of domestic violence face ‘bias’
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