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‘Reach out’ – Clare Haven Services advise how to approach domestic abuse conversations

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Family members who suspect they know individuals suffering from domestic abuse during COVID-19 have been encouraged to reach out through conversation.

Clare Haven is celebrating twenty-five years of diligent service to the community of Clare this year and wishes to commemorate the women and children, past, present and future that have fallen victim to domestic abuse.

Clare Haven remains the only provider of domestic abuse services in Clare, working closely with vulnerable women and children countywide. Newly appointed Manager of Services, Dr. Siobhan O’Connor commends the acuity of her predecessors, proposing for a new model of ‘Generation Equality’ to be put forward for the upcoming twenty-five years.

Her wish is for the next generation of women and children to achieve equality in the household. Society is based on family and the home is the centre of our society, tells Dr O’Connor, “One in five don’t have equality in the home. Home should offer a feeling of safety and these women don’t have it. An awful lot of women who come to us are mother and we can see the impact of domestic abuse on mothers but also, we see the impact it has on children”.

Last year, 62 women and 93 children were accommodated in Clare Haven’s refuge, in 2018 they accommodated 119 children. “The impact of domestic abuse on a child is detrimental to their social and cognitive development. It impacts on them for life. So, for this generation, in the next twenty-five years, we are working towards equality in the home. This will be the generation of equality”. The Refuge Service provides a safe space for those that are fleeing from violence or abuse. The refuge caters for up to six women and twenty-one children at any one time.

A network of support workers and childcare facilities are set up within the refuge itself and communal living is in place for the women and children. Extending beyond facilities is an outreach programme whereby staff members travel to different towns throughout Clare in order to meet with women either suffering or recovering from domestic abuse. Essential court services are also provided as well as educational and parenting programmes put in place to handle the psychological trauma associated with an onslaught of domestic abuse.

“What we would consider popular culture, sometimes suggest grand gestures of romance, which are often abusive behaviours such as guilting and threats of suicide much like Romeo and Juliet or the Vampire Diaries. There are no most prevalent forms as domestic abuse is a gradual process. It rarely happens overnight. It usually starts with financial control and emotional abuse whereby the woman finds herself isolated socially. Domestic abuse is about control and dominance. The most dangerous time for a woman is when she is pregnant or ready to leave. The dynamic changes and the man notices. This is where we see the most high-profile cases which usually end in serious violence or murder.”

Siobhan points to a system of control which prevents women from reaching out for help. Often they have no financial means and no capacity to reach out. There are pressures from different systems to remain in a partnership. Women are seen as dependent adults and looking to break from a joint ownership can often lead to a criminal conviction. Women often look to leave but are denied these orders in court. Home then, becomes a place of danger for these women. This is where refuge comes into play by Clare Haven.

Signs of abuse can often be inconspicuous to the untrained eye and O’Connor pleads for those family members to reach out, “I encourage family members to simply ask, “Are you alright”, “Do you feel safe” or “Is there anything I can help you with”. “If she does disclose information to you, be ready to listen. Don’t overlook it or simply wonder why doesn’t she leave. This is someone they love. It’s a complex situation. I urge family members to reach out to our 24hour call line, of which we took 656 calls in 2019. Most importantly, listen and be there. Believe them. Don’t downplay it with justifications like, he was just drunk or that’s just him”. During current times of enclosure with a lack of safety and security financially, these conversations are even more important.

Offering some perspective on the unrelenting nature of the job, Clare Haven took a total of 685 outreach calls in towns around Ennis last year and provided 14 children with 112 child counselling sessions.

Clare Haven Services can be reached on their Facebook Page or via their 24hour Helpline at: 065-6822435.

An avid reader from a young age, Cian’s love of the archives has been shared by Clare Echo readers who enjoy his Reeling in The Years section. Charles Dickens, Terry Pratchett and Michael Crichton were his favourites writers in his younger years while he was always a fan of studying the opinion columns in The Irish Independent. A past pupil of Lissycasey National School and St Flannan’s College, he is currently completing his final year studies at the University of Limerick in New Media and English. From September, he will be commencing a Masters Degree in Journalism at UL.

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