14 Aug 2022

Domestic Violence in Longford: ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’

Domestic Violence in Longford: ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’

It seems like the easy solution, doesn’t it? She should just leave him and it will all be over. But that’s not the case at all, according to Tara Farrell and Heather McKenna of the LWL Domestic Violence Service.

“It’s a question we get asked a lot: ‘Why doesn’t she just leave? How can she stay?’ But there are so many complexities,” Tara explained.

“Maybe he has told her, ‘You’re useless, you’re nothing, nobody gives a damn about you. Who are you gong to go to? Everyone hates you. You can’t leave with those children. If you leave, I will kill them.’

“It's not even about her - she’s not going to risk that. And I think sometimes, because in many cases she’s been coping for so long - I’m not saying it’s minimised - but sometimes it’s a case of, ‘well, look, I’m managing, we’re getting by; he didn’t hit me today; he might hit me tomorrow; and if he does, well, he’s sorry, or he’s not sorry, but look, it's not that bad; I’m not in hospital’. Because you’re trying to cope. You’re trying to stay alive.”

“And the abuse doesn’t end after they leave,” Heather agreed. “I think, in the world’s mind, it does, but it actually doesn’t.

“In fact, it often gets more dangerous during that leaving phase. It keeps going. Especially if they’ve got kids together, it keeps going.

“So, what a lot of them say is that, when they’re living together, she can tell just from how he walks, or how he opens the door what type of mood he’s in, and she knows how to gauge how she behaves, then. And the children would be the same. So, it’s like she can read the temperature of the room, and adapt to that for her safety and survival.

“But then, with the separation, she can’t, and she can’t manage it because she doesn’t know what mood he’s in. She can’t monitor it, as such. So, there’s added barriers and things to do and think of with the leaving, as opposed to just cut ties and it’s over. It’s not.”

Epidemic meets Pandemic: Significant increase in domestic violence in Longford

It doesn’t seem like such an easy solution anymore, does it? Where would she go? Who would she turn to? Does she have a support system in place if she does leave? And what if she doesn’t? Suddenly leaving seems like more trouble than staying put.

“A lot of the time, she doesn’t have means, because the financial abuse has been part of it, and she doesn’t have anyone to take her in,” said Tara.

“And even if she does, if you were spending, whatever, a few weeks in emergency accommodation, whether it’s in a friend’s room or in a refuge with your two or three kids in the one room, you’re going to start thinking, ‘I was better off in my house’, because there isn’t a pathway out.

“And we can give the support, and the advice, and accompany to court and all of that, but we can’t guarantee what happens after that. We’d love to be able to say, there’s housing available, or there’s such and such a thing available, but there isn’t, and that’s the problem.”

That’s why it’s so important to let her be the boss of her own situation and to ‘Follow Her Lead’. Only she knows what’s best for her right now and telling her to leave can often present more challenges than solutions.

STEP BY STEP: What happens when you seek help & support?

Asking for help can be difficult especially when facing into the unknown. So what exactly is the process of getting a court order against an abusive partner?

  1. Whether you’ve been referred to Longford Women’s Link by gardaí, or contacted LWL yourself, you will attend an appointment in person or on the phone with a Domestic Violence Specialist.
  2. Together, you will create a safety plan that works for you and your children, and work with gardaí for additional supports on safety.
  3. The DV Specialist will help you fill out the paperwork for a protection order or interim barring order and will go with you to the next available court sitting to help you understand the court process.
  4. The judge will read your application and may have some questions before deciding if a protection order or interim barring order can be granted.
  5. Your DV Specialist will help you speak with the Gardaí again about safety and serving the order if needed and will update your safety plan regularly.
  6. Your DV Specialist will then help you apply for legal aid and access a solicitor for the next court date, when the judge will consider a long term order called a safety order or barring order.

‘Gardaí are here to listen and to help’ victims of domestic violence, says Garda chief

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