Help­ing vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence

Bray People - - Inprofile - Mary FOG­A­RTY

‘WOMEN WHO ex­pe­ri­ence do­mes­tic vi­o­lence can do it, you can come out the other side and achieve ex­actly what you want to out of the rest of your life.’

A court­room can be an in­tim­i­dat­ing place at the best of times, but for a woman who has been con­tin­u­ously bul­lied, crit­i­cised, or vi­o­lently abused by a hus­band or part­ner, per­haps for years at a time, Dolores Geraghty at the St. Fer­gal’s Re­source Cen­tre is there for them to lean on as they re­build their lives.

Mother-of four Dolores has re­cently taken over the po­si­tion of women’s is­sues sup­port worker at the cen­tre, but has been there as part of a CE scheme for over three years.

While her work fo­cuses pri­mar­ily on women from the Bal­ly­waltrim area, Dolores said that a man in need of help would never be turned away and that a per­son’s fi­nances are not taken into con­sid­er­a­tion. ‘ You could be a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire and if you need our help you will get it,’ she said, adding that men can also be the vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Her du­ties in any given week are many and var­ied, but would in­clude giv­ing her clients in­for­ma­tion on free le­gal aid, help­ing fill out forms and go­ing to Wick­low with them to the le­gal aid cen­tre.

She can ar­range a so­lic­i­tor for any­one who may need one, deal with is­sues such as main­te­nance, ac­cess, and even go to court with the woman to help them through the ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘It is a mine­field,’ said Dolores, of the le­gal is­sues that sur­round the break­down of a re­la­tion­ship when chil­dren or prop­erty are in­volved, or the process a per­son must go through to deal with do­mes­tic abuse.

‘There is more to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence than hit­ting,’ said Dolores, re­mark­ing that the emo­tional and men­tal abuse can be even more trau­matic. ‘ The abused woman can be told she is ugly, or worth­less. “you’re a slut, no­body would be both­ered with you, your dress sense is aw­ful” the man might say, day-in day-out.’

She added that there is a coun­cil­lor on staff at St. Fer­gal’s to whom clients can speak if they wish, and other staff who will tell them ev­ery­thing they need to know about so­cial wel­fare and other rights or en­ti­tle­ments.

‘The ser­vice is free of charge and com­pletely con­fi­den­tial,’ she said, adding that the com­bined ser­vices at the cen­tre, in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tion, are de­signed to em­power women to get out there and re-start their lives through ed­u­cat­ing them­selves and build­ing up con­fi­dence. Even get­ting their hair and nails done can give them a bit of a lift to help them through the harder days.

She said that the cen­tre in­cludes a creche at a very low cost, as well as an af­ter-school home­work club, so that the cost of child-care need not stand in the way of some­one wish­ing to move for­ward with work or study.

Dolores would of­ten be the first port of call for any woman in cri­sis who comes to the cen­tre. ‘The women can be re­ally afraid, and it’s so hard to go to court on your own, so it’s great to have some­one there with you,’ she said. ‘It could take months be­fore the per­son feels strong enough to take that step to maybe go to court for a bar­ring or pro­tec­tion or­der.’ She added that the threat of with­hold­ing fi­nan­cial sup­port is an­other form of abuse and in­tim­i­da­tion, and an at­tempt to con­trol the vic­tim.

‘We try to en­cour­age our clients not to be afraid - it’s the law!’ said Dolores, stress­ing, how­ever, that she and the other mem­bers of staff would never put any­one un­der pres­sure to end a re­la­tion­ship or do any­thing against their will. ‘It all has to be their own de­ci­sion, we are here to ad­vise and sup­port.’

De­spite its gru­elling and sen­si­tive na­ture, Dolores loves her work. ‘I love see­ing a woman come out of court happy, re­lieved and em­pow­ered,’ she said.

She also vol­un­teers for the Dublin Rape Cri­sis Cen­tre and, as well as tak­ing calls, has the daunt­ing task of meet­ing vic­tims from all over Ire­land at the sex­ual as­sault treat­ment unit of the Ro­tunda to coun­cil them, let them know what ser­vices are avail­able and to help them through what is a truly dread­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. ‘The cen­tre is looking for vol­un­teers,’ she said. ‘Any­one in­ter­ested in help­ing can con­tact them on (01) 6614911.’

Over the past num­ber of years, Dolores has been study­ing hard and has qual­i­fi­ca­tions in psy­chol­ogy and coun­selling. Not only are her four chil­dren, aged be­tween 14 and 27, im­mensely proud of their mother, but she is de­servedly proud of her own con­sid­er­able achieve­ments.

‘It’s very hard some­times but I love the work. When you are help­ing some­body it is all worth­while,’ she said. In her spare time she likes to re­lax by tak­ing long walks, and spending val­ued time with her fam­ily and friends. ‘The fa­cil­i­ties at the St. Fer­gal’s Re­source Cen­tre are ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic,’ she said. ‘And it re­ally works be­cause the cour­ses, the creche, the home­work club and so on are al­ways busy.’

Dolores’ job is funded by the dor­mant ac­counts fund through An Pobal. St. Fer­gal’s Re­source Cen­tre can be con­tacted on (01) 2760376.

Delores ded­i­cates her life to help­ing oth­ers re­build theirs.

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