Hundreds of Donegal women and children were forced to seek an emergency home from the Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service last year.
More than 100 women in Donegal affected by domestic violence and abuse were in need of emergency accommodation in 2016.
The Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service revealed it took accommodation requests from 102 women and 141 children last year through their helpline and other points of contact.
The Letterkenny-based service is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The 24-hour helpline received more than 1,500 calls in 2016 from people looking for support and answers to queries.
Dr Marie Hainsworth, Chairperson of the Donegal Service, told Donegal Woman: “Sisters, mothers and brothers call with their concerns about their loved ones who may be in a dangerous relationship. Indeed, women who are victims of domestic violence call themselves, often worried about the impact it has on their children.”
Families fleeing from violent situations are effectively homeless for a period and turn to the service for support. The DWDVS refuge, Gloria House, took in more than 40 women and 60 children and accommodated the remainder elsewhere.
“Homelessness does affect people in Donegal, but it is not quite as open as cities. We don’t see people on the streets but some people are dealing with an accommodation crisis.
“For those we couldn’t take in directly we found suitable accommodation. We work with the Saint Vincent de Paul hostel, but that’s often full as well. We are very careful to make sure the clients are placed somewhere safe, particularly if there is a security risk. You don’t want a woman going to a B&B if there is a danger of someone pursuing them,” Dr Hainsworth said.
Since August last year, Gloria House had been consistently full. The centre which opened in 2014 was named after the late Gloria McCole, a young mother of two who died as a result of a domestic violence incident. Gloria House has one three-bedroom house and separate apartments for families. The apartments look out into a secluded courtyard and have an indoor and outdoor play spaces for children.
The refuge seeks to help women move on to new accommodation within a month, but each case has its own complexities and there have been significantly longer residencies in the centre of late which puts a strain on the service.
“We’re not going to put women out on the street. There are many issues that determine where a woman can move on to. It depends on what’s happening within the housing market and within the legal system,” said Dr Hainsworth.
Gardai also refer cases to DWDVS if they are concerned about the safety of a woman and. The centre has also looked after women from outside Donegal this year.
Care and kindness at Christmas
“Over Christmas, we had calls from gardai down the country about a woman who was in A&E with her injuries. Another time a woman wanted to flee the area where her partner lived and get completely from him,” Dr Hainsworth said.
Christmas in the centre was made as festive as possible for the residents, Marie said.
“We had a lot of donations of gifts, food and toys over Christmas. One anonymous donor specifically wanted to give a gift to every child and mother in the centre. We try to made it as friendly as we can and each client has their own space to decorate,” Dr Hainsworth said.
The support provided by DWDVS doesn’t stop when a woman leaves. She will get outreach support and the option to come back to the clinic for information and follow-up services.
The team will continue to provide aid and a safe sanctuary for women in the year to come. They are also looking to introduce a new relationship support programme for families who have come out of a domestic violence situation.
“Recovering from domestic abuse is about coming together. There is often a need to resolve relationship issues between a mother and a child. We want to help them understand what happened so they don’t feel blame and it doesn’t impact the child’s development,” Dr Hainsworth said.
It is hoped that the group will be set up by Easter of this year, in partnership with the social services and the Tusla Child and Family Agency.
The Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service are continuously broadening their reach and using social media to provide information and promote all fundraising efforts for the service.
Visit www.facebook.com/DonegalDVS for news updates and contact details.