United Dioceses of Dublin & Glendalough



‘They Are Our Sisters, Our Friends…’ – MU Service Highlights Domestic Abuse

‘They Are Our Sisters, Our Friends…’ – MU Service Highlights Domestic Abuse
Niamh White of Aoibhneas Women’s Refuge, Aoife Palmer of Saoirse Women’s Refuge, Karen Nelson Diocesan President of Mothers’ Union, Detective Laura Sweeney of the GNPSB and Avril Gillatt of Mothers’ Union at the MU 16 Days’ Prayer Vigil.

Members of Mothers’ Union in Dublin & Glendalough raised their voices on Saturday (November 24) to speak up for those experiencing domestic abuse. The organisation held a prayer vigil in Christ Church, Taney, as part of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence.

During the service, which was led by Taney Curate, the Revd Cathy Hallissey, they heard from women who work with people affected by domestic abuse and prayed for an end to all forms of gender based violence and abuse.

Detective Laura Sweeney of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau said people often don’t act when they suspect domestic abuse because they fear they might have to do something.

“One in three women in Ireland and one in five men experience domestic abuse. They are our sisters, our friends, people we go walking with in the evening. The abuse is not the victim’s fault. We can be supportive and share their secret with them until the day they are ready to act. Because if a victim is contemplating leaving, they are at a greater risk of dying,” she explained.

Detective Sweeney praised Mothers’ Union for highlighting the issue. “You might not be told of the abuse but the reality is that a huge volume of people on a daily basis are experiencing domestic abuse. Just be aware and open to people who might want to confide in you,” she concluded.  

Aoife Palmer, outreach worker for Saoirse Women’s Refuge in Tallaght spoke about their service which provides short term crisis accommodation for women and children who experience domestic abuse. The refuge also offers community based services for women and is soon to open two ‘post crisis safe houses’ which will give women and their children a bit more time to source a home for themselves. During 2017, the Saoirse Women’s Refuge had 254 residents – 102 women and 152 children. They got over 2,000 calls to their helpline and there were 190 families that they could not accommodate.

Ms Palmer highlighted two events taking place during the 16 Days of Activism. Saoirse is holding a 16 hour sleep out at IT Tallaght on Wednesday November 28. They are participating in an event in Tallaght Stadium in conjunction with Tallaght Women Together Network on December 6.

Niamh White is part of the management team at Aoibhneas Women’s Refuge in Coolock. She said the service they provide is multi–faceted as every victim’s experience of abuse is different. They prioritise their 24 hour helpline as this service is often a woman’s first port of call and it allows staff to offer advice and support while enabling the women to be heard and listened to.

The purpose built refuge has the ethos ‘one team one family’ and Ms White explained that they support the families as they begin a new journey. Key workers work on the practicalities but staff also help women to rebuild their self esteem. “Our focus is on getting the word out that domestic abuse is not acceptable and you don’t have to live like this. There is another way,” she stated. Once families leave the refuge, they can connect with the outreach services which include peer support groups and Aoibhneas’s eight week ‘Freedom Programme’. Aoibhneas is holding a Christmas appeal and are seeking donations of vouchers which the women in the refuge can spend on Christmas presents and items for their families.

16 Days of Action Against Gender Based Violence runs from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25) to Human Rights Day (December 10). It provides an opportunity for a wide range of organisations to raise awareness and call for changes which make women and children safe from abuse.

The Revd Cathy Hallissey
The Revd Cathy Hallissey