Women from all backgrounds attend domestic violence service in Dublin
Many of the women’s partners or spouses work in law, politics and the gardaí
Dolphin House: Staff help women both before and after they attend court when they are seeking domestic violence orders. Photograph: Stephen Collins/ Collins
A “lot of middle-class women” from “very affluent post codes” attend the Dolphin House domestic violence support service, according to support worker Gill Kennedy.
She sits at her desk in a small office on the top floor of the building in East Essex Street, Temple Bar. The redbrick former hotel houses the Dublin District Family Court as well as ancillary services.
There is a large box of tissues on her desk and a couch close by. Outside, there is a small waiting area, with windows that look out at local roofs.
The Dolphin House Family Law Court Support and Referral Service is run by Inchicore Outreach Centre, Dublin 12 Domestic Violence Service and Women’s Aid.
Women from all backgrounds attend the drop-in service, many are middle class, with partners or spouses who are professionals, working in areas including the law, politics and the Garda.
Staff help women both before and after they attend court when they are seeking domestic violence orders. These include barring orders, which exclude an abuser from the family home, and safety orders, which require an abuser not to use or threaten to use violence.
“You get a lot of middle-class women coming in, living in the very affluent post codes, women from south county Dublin, plenty of them,” Ms Kennedy says.
“They are coming in after being absolutely battered and getting interim barring orders because the abuse is so bad.”
There are women who are financially abused “presenting as middle-class, but they may not have their own income, it may all be his, they might not have any access to it.” There is also an increase in women reporting sexual abuse.
There is a lot of mental abuse, isolation and control, a lot of very narcissistic behaviour, Ms Kennedy says.
Holiday pressure points
Many abusers “behave very well on the outside and present well at work”, she says. And they don’t want their behaviour “spilling out” with external agencies becoming involved.
“Court orders can work well in those cases because they want to keep it in the family,” says Ms Kennedy.
“Where orders don’t work is where people have had criminal convictions in the past and they are generally violent to everyone, which we get here as well. They need a much more critical response from the gardaí.”
Holiday times can also be pressure points. After a bank holiday weekend there can be more demand for protection from the courts.
There were approximately 30 ex-parte (one side only) domestic violence applications at Dolphin House after the bank holiday weekend in May this year. There is usually a post-Christmas rush.
Families are thrown together for longer, Ms Kennedy says, and there is time for pressure to build and things to happen.
Women’s Aid national helpline is open 24 hours at 1800 341 900