Tackling Domestic Abuse in Ireland – We All Have a Part to Play
With the high number of women working within our industry and with the volume of women clients who we meet on a daily basis, HABIC believes that it is our collective responsibility to be aware of the signs of domestic abuse. We also feel that it is important that as we work within the personal care sector, we should be informed on how to respond to these signs and signals. To this end, HABIC has teamed up with Women’s Aid to bring you a webinar that focuses on ‘Tackling Domestic Abuse in Ireland’, next Monday 18th Oct, at 11am.
If we think about it, we all know someone who has been affected by domestic violence. It could be our sister, our friend, our workmate, our client or our mother. Or perhaps we have had our own personal experience. As a leading national domestic violence organisation, Women’s Aid supports women from all walks of life and of all ages, right across the country.
With one in four women in Ireland subjected to domestic abuse including coercive control, hair and beauty businesses in local communities across Ireland can play a crucial role in raising awareness among those who may need support,writes Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid.
Last year, 29,717 contacts were made with Women’s Aid’s frontline services, during which 24,893 disclosures of domestic abuse against women including coercive control were made. Support workers also heard 5,948 disclosures of abuse against children. The reality is that thousands of women are being subjected to high levels of emotional, physical, sexual and economic abuse every day, at the hands of the person who is supposed to care for and respect them. The COVID-19 pandemic made the crisis level of domestic violence in Ireland more visible and has highlighted more than ever the fact that we all have a part to play in supporting those affected. Preventing and combating domestic abuse needs a whole community response.
These statistics are shocking and represent a 43% increase in the numbers of women reaching out to Women’s Aid for support during the most difficult of years. However, these figures are only the tip of the iceberg as the numbers of people who are suffering at the hands of those closest to them are many, many times higher. One in four women in Ireland are targeted during their lifetime by current or former partners, a shocking one in five will have been abused by the time they are just 25 years old – many for the first time as teenagers in their earliest and formational intimate relationships.
Abuse is Not Always Physical – Understanding Coercive Control
Domestic violence can be physical, emotional, sexual or economic abuse. The vast majority of domestic violence and domestic abuse relationships occur in the context of coercive control, which has been a criminal offence in Ireland since 2019.
Coercive control is an insidious and dangerous form of abuse. It is a persistent pattern of controlling, coercive and threatening behaviour including all or some forms of domestic abuse (emotional, physical, economic, and/or sexual abuse, including threats) by a partner or ex. It isolates and traps women in a relationship and makes it impossible or dangerous to leave.
Read more: Download the Women’s Aid Leaflet on Coercive Control (https://www.womensaid.ie/assets/files/pdf/coercive_control_leaflet_2021.pdf)
This can have a serious impact including the fear of violence, cause serious alarm and distress and can result in a woman giving up work, changing her routines, losing contact with family and friends and finding her world completely shrunk and diminished. Coercive control can seriously damage a woman’s physical and emotional well-being. Women tell us that when it has become acute, coercive control feels like their abuser is controlling them even from inside their own head. When he has been so overbearing that she hears his voice, instead of her own, in her mind: constantly criticising, berating, questioning and threatening her every move even when they are apart. This can feel completely overwhelming and paralysing.
How to Help
When someone discloses that they are experiencing abuse or you have a feeling something isn’t quite right, it can be difficult to know what to do. With the right information you can make a difference in someone’s journey to safety. Consider these six steps to help you know how help:
- Know the signs. Domestic abuse isn’t always physical – it can be emotional abuse, or economic, sexual or psychological abuse and control. It most cases it will include a number of types of abuse which can escalate over a period of time.
- We know it can sometimes feel scary to ask someone if something is wrong. People can worry about ‘saying the wrong thing’. Know that you don’t have to have ‘all the answers’! In fact, just creating a safe space to ask someone what is going on and letting them share, without directing them or telling them what to do, is a powerful act of solidarity and support.
- Don’t blame her, or pressure her to leave. There are many reasons a woman may not choose to change her situation – from fear to hope or even love. The only person who can decide what’s right is her.
- Listen without judgement – and believe her. Allowing a woman to open up, without evaluating her choices, can create a safe space for her to confide in you, if she wants to.
- Offer support. Let her know that you are willing to help however you can while keeping yourself safe.
- Share resources. Without pressuring her, let her know that support is available when and if she is ready. If it is safe to do so, you might offer the Women’s Aid National Helpline or website details with her.
- Remind her that abuse is not her fault. It can be easy for victims to feel isolated, frightened, and even deserving of horrible treatment. Remind her that she deserves respect.
Learn more about how you can be part of this conversation:
Join HABIC CEO Margaret O’Rourke Doherty in conversation with Sarah Benson, CEO Women’s Aid on Monday 18th October at 11am exclusively for members of HABIC. (Click this link to join: https://habic.ie/events/womens-aid-webinar/)
If you have been affected by any issue raised in this article, please contact the Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 or the instant message support service on www.womensaid.ie (open at fixed times daily).