Victims of domestic abuse in rural areas struggling to have their voices heard

300 incidents of domestic abuse were reported in Clare in 2016 alone

Support workers are struggling to offer the help needed by those affected by domestic abuse in rural areas.

A lack of funding and services, as well as the limited offer of anonymity add to the challenge of ending domestic abuse.

Several women spoke to reporter Richard Chambers on Pat Kenny throughout the week, outlining the experiences they had as rural victims.

 

'If I go down, you're going down with me'

Brónagh spoke of the difficulty of reporting the abuse to different guards over the years. Where services are depleted in rural areas.

"Sometimes you might go back and the guard you spoke to might be off duty, and you have to explain your case all over again", she said. "If you call them again, and you know it's like, 'God here we go again, don't waste my time'. Not all guards, but some."

Enduring two decades of abuse, Brónagh's husband regularly threatened to kill her, saying if he was jailed for his crimes, he would bring her down with him.

Lack of anonymity

The dynamics of small communities means anonymity is significantly compromised, especially in cases within the home.

Co-ordinator of Haven Horizons and Clare Haven Madeline McAleer said the situation in rural areas like hers mean it’s often very difficult for women to take that step.

So far, Gardaí in her base county of Clare have responded to over 300 incidents of domestic violence in 2016. Clare Haven provided refuge to 65 women and 129 children last year.

Putting a price on victims' safety

The transport infrastructure in West Cork makes it difficult for victims to avail of services.

Cork Women Against Violence cover a large region with outreach and court accompaniment and counselling, in one of the most sparsely populated parts of the country. Chairperson Marie Mulholland spends up to €6,000 a year in petrol to reach her victims by car.

Staffing issues are holding the group back when it comes to developing their support services. Ms Mulholland is the only full-time member,  having only two support workers and an adminstrator, who all work part-time hours.

'I felt that we were effectively under house arrest'

Brigid's husband subjected her to severe psychological abuse, some of which involved her children.

"I had to keep the windows and doors locked at all times", she said. "I had to keep CCTV running at all times. I felt that we were effectively under house arrest.

"You're just trying to be ok and deal with the day-to-day things ... You just have tunnel vision to survive."

She said when it comes to domestic abuse, the emphasis is put on physical acts as opposed to the emotional hurt victims face.

*** WARNING - listeners may find the below report disturbing ***

 

All this week Newstalk and COSC - National Office for the Prevention of Domestic Sexual and Gender Biased Violence - are campaigning to increase the awareness of domestic and sexual violence.

If you have been affected by anything mentioned in this article, you can call the COSC helpline on 046-902-3718 or visit www.whatwouldyoudo.ie.