On Monday morning this week (October 18), Ryan Tubridy read out the most moving and yet disturbing email from a listener, a woman describing how she had just experienced her first episode of domestic violence. Her shock, her trauma, and even her bewilderment over what to do next came through powerfully in her words, and his reading of the letter prompted a slew of emails and phone calls to the show’s team.
This morning, Ryan took the opportunity to read some of these emails. But it was a phone call from one listener, Orla, which illustrated the powerlessness experienced not just by women at the receiving end of domestic violence but, on occasion, outside witnesses to these events.
Orla, a psychotherapist and not somebody who is easily shocked, was walking in a public park with her husband when she witnessed an event that really shook her to the core. “I heard a really loud, very rough shout”, Orla recalled. It said, “Don’t you effing do that again!” My husband looked, and said straight away, “Oh my God, he hit her.”
“There was this lovely young woman, sprawled on the ground, nose pumping blood, her two beautiful little children absolutely hysterical, particularly a little child around two years of age. I have never seen anything like it. It was so upsetting.”
The couple were both in their early 30s, with the man standing over his stricken partner, not having seen Orla and her husband. They walked over and Orla’s husband bent down to offer help, asking whether she was okay.
“She never spoke, but her face was a picture of pain and tears and blood. She nodded to say, 'Yes, yes I am.' At this point, her partner interjected and said, in a calm, nonchalant voice, 'Oh, she tripped.'
Orla’s husband was having none of it, insisting he saw exactly what happened. The man then remained quiet and attempted to pick up one of his hysterical children, who was shaking with fear.
They then helped the young woman to her feet, asking once again whether they could help in any way, or call somebody on her behalf. But she quietly declined. After just a couple of minutes, the couple left the park with their children, the lady with her head hung impassively low, discouraging any engagement, the man looking straight ahead, expressionless.
Orla and her husband were utterly confused as to what they could do. The next morning, her husband rang the Gardaí and, although they were understanding, they said that because there was no camera in the park, the lady herself would have to report the assault.
“I think if I’d seen these people 2 or 3 minutes earlier I would have just thought, well, there is a lovely, happy family. It struck at all my preconceived notions of what domestic violence looks like… But the thing that really, really haunts me is those children.”
The image of the eldest child has also remained with Orla, with a look she describes as “stony-faced”, as she walked away. “That’s because she’s seen it before”, reckoned Ryan.
“That’s what I thought”, replied Orla, “which makes it even sadder.”
It was a powerful interview, one of several calls and emails that came into the show on this subject.
And towards the end of the programme, Ryan spoke to another woman who had, herself, experienced domestic violence and had come out the far end, separating from her abusive partner.
Also, if you been affected by any issues discussed on the program, there are over 40 domestic violence services in Ireland. Many of these provide 24-hour emergency support lines and, in some cases, emergency accommodation. If you are in immediate danger, you can contact the Gardaí or call 999.
You can also contact Women’s Aid on their national helpline 1800 341 900.
Support for men who experience domestic violence is available from Amen on 046-9023718. For older people experiencing abuse in the home, the HSE has an information line on 1850 241 850.
For children, the national organisation, Childline can be contacted for confidential support on 1800 66 66 66 or text Talk to 50101.
Or contact your local Citizens Information Centre for local services in your area and for information on your rights.