The “incredible” strength and resilience of women who survive abusive relationships was singled out for special praise this week by COPE Galway in the run up to International Women’s Day which takes place tomorrow (Friday ).
Dr Carol Baumann, the manager of COPE Galway’s domestic abuse service, said these “extremely resourceful” women have “amazing” survival skills.
“At COPE Galway Domestic Abuse Service, we meet women from all walks of life who find themselves needing support and advice because of an abusive partner,” she says.
Almost without exception, each woman blames herself; she is sure she somehow caused the abuse to happen, she says. Women will say something along the lines of: ‘I must be so weak...if I were a stronger woman, he wouldn’t dare hit me....’
These women have been conditioned by their partners into thinking and believing that they are to blame and they search for clues as to what they did wrong, what “flaws lie in their souls”, and how can they make things better.
“What a woman who is abused does not see is the very first thing we notice when we meet her - her strength. There are many forms of strength: physical, emotional, mental. There is the muscular strength of the athlete, the fervent passion of the campaigner, or the strength it takes to survive an abusive relationship.”
People often do not know their own strength until they are tested. “Every day, we see a woman with amazing survival skills who manages - despite the constant knock backs and put downs – to get up every morning and get the children out to school, put food on the table, and manage a household with meagre resources.
“Or a woman who manages to retain a job or continue with her education despite living under siege, where her every movement is monitored or controlled, and where her access to money is determined by her partner. Women who are constantly walking on egg shells and whose safety is under threat, often to the point that they are fearful of sleeping....just in case.”
Dr Baumann states that managing to function in these situations requires immense strength and resources.
“To survive and to function in these circumstances, to manage each day to present a smiling face to her children and to the world, takes incredible reserves of strength and resilience. Contrary to being weak, a woman who is abused is strong and extremely resourceful. And this inherent strength and resilience of character is what will eventually forge the path out of the relationship and into a new life.”
She outlines that working with COPE Galway’s domestic abuse service provides a “window into the best of humanity”.
“The women who use our service are survivors and have stoicism, dignity, and compassion in abundance. They dig deep to these reserves, and come out on top - free and without bitterness.
“As we mark International Women’s Day in 2019, let’s take a moment to salute the women in our community who persevere and overcome difficult situations; the one in five women in Ireland who find themselves in an abusive relationship – our daughters, our sisters, our friends, neighbours, and colleagues.”
Dr Baumann says the service’s imminent move to Modh Eile House on Forster Street will be “fortified” by the strength of these women who are seeking another way of life for themselves and their children.
“Once they are given the time and space away from their abusers these women will continue to grow in strength with the help and support of the community of Galway. In 2018 COPE Galway’s domestic abuse service supported 457 women - much achieved with your support. Let’s work together to make our city and county a safe place for our families.”
COPE Galway’s domestic abuse service, currently based at Waterside House in Galway, is the only 24 hour accessible refuge in the west. It provides refuge accommodation, information, support and court accompaniment to women and their children experiencing domestic abuse. There is an outreach service for women in the city and county who are in abusive relationships and who need support and information on their options.
If you are concerned about your own situation or that of someone you love, telephone the centre’s confidential 24 hour service at (091 ) 565985 or log on to www.copegalway.ie/domestic-abuse-services/ for further information and to download its Safety Planning Guide.