Friday 18 August 2017

Meet the Irish teen using Snapchat to help survivors of domestic abuse

'It's a slow death because you don't know if you will be dead or alive tomorrow'

Ainie Grainger who runs a Snapchat called saynotocdv.
Justin Farrelly.
Ainie Grainger who runs a Snapchat called saynotocdv. Justin Farrelly.
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Ainie Grainger was eight-years-old when her dad began emotionally and verbally abusing her - and now at 19 she is using Snapchat to help raise awareness around domestic violence.

"It's a slow death, that's the only way to explain it. Domestic violence is a slow death because you don't know if you will be dead or alive tomorrow.

"My dad started mentally abusing me when I was just eight, calling me names - telling me I would never achieve anything in life.

"The abuse eventually turned physical but it is the mental trauma that hasn't gone away, that is still with me today.

"I didn't have a childhood, I wasn't allowed to learn the way children are supposed to. I didn't go on sleepovers, he was very over-protective, I wasn't allowed out to play."

The abuse could be triggered by something as simple as walking in front of the TV she said.  She remembers regularly spending two hours locked alone in a car regularly while her dad gambled on horse-racing in the bookies.

Ainie Grainger who runs a Snapchat called saynotocdv.
Justin Farrelly.
Ainie Grainger who runs a Snapchat called saynotocdv. Justin Farrelly.

She also watched how her dad would assault her mum at home.

"I have witnessed her being thrown against a radiator...being suffocated with a pillow.

"I genuinely believed she saved my life when we left," she said.

Ainie's dad began abusing her mum Priscilla when she was pregnant and it continued for more than a decade during their marriage.

In 2007 she secured a safety order against him. He was later ordered to pay a fine of €150 after making threats to kill her over the phone.

When the three lived together,  he tried to prevent mum and daughter bonding the teen said, but in the years after leaving they developed a strong relationship.

"My mam has been to hell and back but she has come out the other side. I'm the proudest daughter," she said.

Through her work Ainie has met with the Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and has travelled to New York to meet with the NYPD to talk about their model of tackling domestic abuse.

She was angry to learn that the upcoming Domestic Violence Bill will not criminalise domestic violence as a stand-alone crime, which she feels would help improve the legal situation for people who are being abused.

"It's terrible to think that it is still gong on behind closed doors, that we brush it under the carpet and say 'it's not our problem'," she said.

With her leaving cert fast approaching in June and plans to attend college to study social care so she can continue helping domestic violence survivors, the Dubliner is confident and articulate. But it has taken a lot of work to get to this point she said.

Ainie attends counselling which has helped her with anxiety, stress and depression but says she still has flashbacks.

"It was a very long process. I lacked confidence," she said.

The abuse had such an effect on Ainie that at one point she experienced suicidal ideation.

"I wanted to end it all at one point because I couldn't take any more but I told my mum how I felt and she brought me to see a counsellor who has been a fantastic help," she said.

Now in her spare time she uses social media to reach out to people who might be experiencing violence at home and to raise awareness.

"On Snapchat I am able to talk about my story, who helped me and then also the different types of abuse that domestic violence includes.

"It's great to be able to help people because I never want to see a man, woman or child go through what I had to go through with domestic violence," she said.

Down the line she would like to set up her own charity for childhood survivors of domestic abuse.

"There is Childline and there is Barnardos which are great charities but there is nothing specific for domestic violence," she said.

As for children or teens who may be experincing ongoing problems Ainie says it is important to remember that the abuse is not their fault,

"If they['re in a safe environment I woud say talk to someone they can trust - reach out to a teacher," she said.

Ainie's Snapchat can be found at @SayNoToCDV and her Facebook is available here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Domestic-Violence-in-Ireland/312598112449733

Anyone affected by the issues raised in this article can contact:

The National Freephone Helpline on 1800 341 900 (Open 24 hours, 7 days a week including Christmas Day).

You can also receive information about domestic violence at helpline@womensaid.ieand more information can be found on the Women's Aid website or the Safe Ireland website.

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