Abused woman urges others to escape
A mother of three who fled her violent partner after years of abuse has called on other women to find the strength to move on.
Campaigners have warned that added stress over the Christmas season can trigger more frequent and more severe levels of violence against women and their children.
One victim who escaped with the help of Women's Aid and Sonas Housing said there is life after domestic violence.
"Sometimes I still have bad days," she said. "But my bad days now are 10 times better than my best days then."
Emma (not her real name) suffered five years of mental, physical, psychological and sexual abuse at the hands of her former partner before she finally left with her three children and sought refuge with Sonas Housing. Now living in supported housing in Dublin, she said it breaks her heart to see other women going back to abusive partners who will never change.
"I thought at one stage that things would never get better," said the woman, aged in her early 30s. "I felt so hopeless. I thought 'this is my life'.
"When I left I was just thinking of physical safety and having food and shelter. I never really thought that I would be at the point that I would feel so good about life and have friends. It is easier to be a single parent, even with two disabled children, than with him and his moods and not knowing what each day was going to be like for us."
Demand for Sonas Housing doubled last year, with almost 600 vulnerable women living with abuse appealing for help in 2011. But only 130 women with 250 children could be taken into its emergency refuge.
The charity said December and June were the quietest months for demand, while mothers keep their family home together during Christmas and school exams, but they were followed by massive spikes in February and July.
Women's Aid urged anyone in need to call its helpline on 1800 341 900. More than 11,000 calls reporting 13,000 incidents were made to the charity last year, with 44% disclosing children were also directly abused or present. Some 2,000 women said their children had suffered at the hands of a perpetrator, while another 3,000 youngsters witnessed their mothers being threatened, beaten or sexually abused.