Domestic violence as a migrant woman: ‘I was exhausted from abuse’

‘I don’t think the system is ready to support migrant women who survive violence’

‘From the very beginning he treated me badly. He would make threats on my life but I never believed he would actually do anything.’ Photograph: iStock

‘From the very beginning he treated me badly. He would make threats on my life but I never believed he would actually do anything.’ Photograph: iStock

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When Rebecca* left her husband in early 2020, she hoped to spend only a brief period in emergency accommodation while she figured out a more permanent set-up for herself and her child.

In the year since, Rebecca and her baby have moved between seven refuges, hostels, B&Bs and emergency accommodation centres.

After initially securing a room in a women’s refuge, Rebecca and her child were moved into a house in a rural area with another Brazilian woman after the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

From the very beginning he treated me badly. He would make threats on my life but I never believed he would actually do anything

“We had our own rooms but we were in this small house in the middle of nowhere. We weren’t even able to walk to the shop, it was miles away. We had an amazing family nearby to help us but it was wrong to put two families from domestic violence situations in an isolated house together. We needed help but we were alone.”

Since then she has been moved from place to place and says she is frequently asked why she can’t just go back to her husband.

Rebecca met her husband after moving to Ireland from Brazil a decade ago to learn English. The couple had been married for several years when she decided to leave.

“From the very beginning he treated me badly. He would make threats on my life but I never believed he would actually do anything. He always came back afterwards to say sorry and he loved me. He knew how to control my emotions.”

The staff don’t seem to know what it is like to live with no family or anyone to be your support network

Having grown up watching both her mother and her grandmother be violently abused by their partners, Rebecca says she was already “vulnerable” before coming to Ireland.

She sought help from a support group but says she was advised to go home to her family in Brazil. “The abuse continued to a point that the neighbours started calling the Garda. He also completely isolated me from the few friends I had here in Ireland. I was exhausted from abuse...

“I don’t think the system is ready to support migrant women who survive violence. The staff don’t seem to know what it is like to live with no family or anyone to be your support network, to have language barriers.”

Rebecca says she initially felt embarrassed seeking help “but now I realise that strong women end up in these situations too.”

*A pseudonym has been used to protect Rebecca’s identity and safety

For support and information, contact Women’s Aid Freephone helpline on 1800 341 900