A woman walks into my office. She is quiet… she seems nervous and fidgety. She shakes my hand weakly and shuffles into the chair.
I introduce myself, take some basic details – name, address…that sort of thing. She appears reluctant to give me much information… there’s no eye contact, one line answers – she’s almost looking over her shoulder. She looks uncomfortable.
I start to ask how I can help her. She’s having problems with her partner.
“He’s not a bad man” she tells me. “He just sometimes gets angry”. He can call her the most awful of names when he’s angry she tells me. Sometimes the kids are there and can hear him shout at her. She tries her best not to annoy him but her best is never good enough.
He’s hit her once before. More than once, in fact. “Lost count” she admits.
She feels isolated and alone. She needs to get away from this, to stop feeling afraid, but doesn’t know how or even where to start.
Fast forward a few months…
The same lady walks into my office. Head held higher, more confidence in her voice. More open to talk and communicate.
I comment on the positive change I can clearly see in her. She tells me she’s been going to a Women’s Aid group. That she can see things more clearly now – the violence, the abuse, the fear…. all used as a means of controlling her. She feels stronger for seeing this.
She’s met other women at her group who have lived through similar experiences. Everyone tells their stories. She has realised that she is not the only one, that she is not alone. And what a weight has been lifted to know that.
This could be the story of any woman who has engaged the support of Women’s Aid. Certainly any woman I have met who has sought help from Women’s Aid have only had positive things to say about the organisation.
In my own dealings as a lawyer working with various support workers throughout the Women’s Aid organisation, I have seen the positive changes that their involvement brings to women.
So, what is Women’s Aid??
Women’s Aid is a leading voluntary organisation addressing domestic abuse and violence and providing services for women and children.
There are local Women’s Aid groups throughout Northern Ireland who deliver services to women within their local area. We have signposted these local groups here for you.
How can Women’s Aid help me?
If you are or have been the victim of domestic abuse or violence, Women’s Aid provides many services which may be of support to you including the following:-
- Refuge accommodation for you and your children if you are suffering domestic abuse within your home and need a safe place to stay.
- Emotional and practical support on legal, welfare, housing and money issues and making safer arrangements for you and your children
- Support groups and programmes to allow you to talk about and explore your experiences with other women in similar situations.
- A 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence helpline providing you with free and confidential support and advice.
It can be hard to pick up the phone for the first time. In fact it is only the first step in a long and difficult journey. However, it is good to know that with organisations like Women’s Aid, this is a journey that you do not have to take alone.
You can contact Women’s Aid via their website www.womensaidni.org
At Life Law NI, we want to hear about your experiences of support organisations who have helped you during your time of need. Contact Claire or me through Life Law NI to let us hear your stories.