‘He pinned me into a corner with his hand wrapped around my throat’
As she progressed in getting away from her abuser, he would threaten to bury her alive
More than 19,100 contacts were made with the Women’s Aid charity’s direct services last year.
Almost 17,000 disclosures of domestic violence were made, up by almost 4 per cent on 2015.
Of those who contacted it, 80 per cent were being abused by a current male partner or ex-partner.
Two of the women who engaged with the charity last year tells their stories.
Clare was 17 when she met her ex-partner, who was 21. He was attentive and nice to her at the beginning. He told her she was good-looking and made her feel “wanted and special”.
When they moved in together, things changed. He began telling her what to wear and undermining her relationships with friends and family. They had a daughter together.
“As the relationship continued, I knew that it wasn’t healthy, but I never considered it abusive until he began inflicting physical harm on me,” Clare says.
He assaulted her for the first time after an argument about his gambling.
“He pinned me into a corner with his hand wrapped around my throat as he snarled abuse at me, threatening to kill me and leave with my daughter,” she says. “He then started to push and shove me around by the base of my hair.”
She fell to the ground and began kicking him, hoping to make him stop, but he kicked her face with such a force that her head went back and was “split open in two different places”.
Once he saw blood, he apologised and Clare did not see a doctor. She feared she had provoked him and that their daughter might be taken from her. She never fought back again. She left him after another serious incident, but the relationship continued by phone and he verbally and emotionally abused her.
“As I slowly progressed in getting away from him, he would often threaten to bury me alive, something I would be terrified of because I’m claustrophobic,” she says.
He told her he would dance all over her face or he’d call her fat, and say nobody else would ever want her.
She contacted Women’s Aid and eventually got a domestic violence safety order against him in court.
Now 24 years old, Clare finds it hard to trust that not all potential partners are going to try to manipulate or abuse her. She is focussing on herself and her daughter and says her daughter better off now that she isn’t witnessing abuse.
“The reason I’m sharing my story is that I hope anyone who may be reading it will gain understanding that it doesn’t matter what your age, your background or your current circumstances, an abuser can target anyone.”
Anna’s parents separated when she was three years old, due to her father’s violence, but both she and her brother visited him at the weekends.
Most of the time there were others in the house, but on Saturday afternoons they were alone with him.
“He used to give my brother money to go to the shops and to go out to play. When he was gone, my Dad started to sexually abuse me.”
Anna was terrified and would lock herself into the bathroom, but her father always got her to open the door. The abuse happened regularly for about five years.
“I always felt it was wrong, but I was scared of starting trouble, of being a hassle or problem for my mum, who was struggling with the emotional and financial strain of raising us by herself,” Anna says.
“I didn’t tell anyone for a long time and when the abuse stopped, when I was about 10, we continued to go to him.”
She always felt he was keeping an eye on her. He commented on her clothes and how she was developing. He asked questions about her period.
When she was 15, and alone in the house with her father one day, he wrestled her to the bed and rolled over on her. She thought he was going to rape her.
“I left then and I’ve never seen him again,” she says.
She wrote a letter to her mother about what had happened. Her father was confronted and eventually admitted what he’d done.
“My mum was devastated and angry. She felt she let me down completely. We never fully got the chance to recover from it. She died of cancer a few years later.”
Now in her early 30s, Anna is starting to deal with the trauma of the abuse.
“In my own experience and talking to other survivors over the years, men who are violent and abusive to women don’t treat children any better.”
Anyone affected by domestic abuse can contact Women’s Aid on free phone 1800 341 900, 24 hours a day. www.womensaid.ie