Refuge sees repeat pattern of abuse

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MEN NEED TO TAKE ACTION Trish Quigley of the Mayo Women’s Support Service.

Anton McNulty

Having worked at Mayo Women Support Services in Castlebar for a number of years, support workers Asumpta Lally and Trish Quigley, have listened and supported countless numbers of women who have experienced domestic violence and coercive control.
The stories they tell us about the patterns of abusive behaviours have not changed, nor has the trauma, fear and dread suffered by the woman and her children.
“I have worked 20 years here and seen and heard alot but fundamentally it is the profile of this one man. The tactics they use and what they say. It is like it is the one man abusing all these women. It is the same set of patterns which they all use,” Asumpta explained.
Located on Breaffy Road, Castlebar, Mayo Women Support Services is part of Safe Ireland social change agency, providing a range of supports for women and children living with domestic violence.  The centre has five independent living units which act as a place of refuge for women and their children. MWSS also provides support and advocacy at eleven locations throughout county Mayo. Children’s support programmes, individual and group, are also provided for children in refuge and outreach.
Over the last two years of Covid, key agencies have engaged and responded, including local authority, social protection, Gardaí and the courts, to the issue of domestic violence and coercive control.  While those changes have been beneficial, there is still a long road to go, in addressing this ever increasing horrendous violence perpetrated against women by men.
The sound of children’s laughter echoes around the centre, however for many women they still live in fear despite having taken the huge step in leaving an abusive partner.
Trish and Asumpta explain that domestic violence is about control and not all abuse is physical which can make it difficult for women to have the courage to leave a hostile relationship.
“The longer a woman is exposed to the abuse, the more her confidence and self esteem is chipped away. A sense of self blame sets in and ‘maybe if I did this’ and ‘if I didn’t do that”.  It becomes a spiral and by the time they make contact, that woman’s self esteem and confidence can be completely shattered,” said Trisha.
“Domestic violence is all about power and control over somebody else. It is not just physical, abuse, it’s verbal and emotional, sexual, financial and the threat of physical violence.
“It can be all of these,” Asumpta added.
The murder of Ashling Murphy two weeks ago is something which victims of domestic abuse have been raising with support workers and there is a genuine fear that if someone can be attacked and killed in broad daylight they can be attacked behind closed doors.
While the issue of domestic violence is being highlighted more and there is greater support from the gardaí and the judicial system to victims, both Trish and Asumpta believe that more needs to be done in education to change young men’s attitudes to how they see women.
“Men themselves need to take action and need to start talking and open up. It is common place in pubs and where people socialise to make derogatory jokes about women and I would safely say the majority of men would not step in and say I do not like that. That is abusive. A lot of men will hear it and might not like it but would not say anything because that is more fear in relation to standing up as men. The conversations need to start,” said Trish.
More information on Mayo Women Support Services is available on its website www.mwss.ie or phone 094 9025409 or 087 659672.