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Sunday 25 February 2018

Brave Norah praised for revealing years of terror at hands of first husband

Healing confession: Norah Casey spoke on the ‘Late Late Show’ about her years of domestic abuse. Photo: Tony Gavin
Healing confession: Norah Casey spoke on the ‘Late Late Show’ about her years of domestic abuse. Photo: Tony Gavin
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

After bravely speaking about the domestic abuse she faced at the hands of her ex-husband, Norah Casey has been praised for shedding a light on an issue many women face every day.

Women have already reacted to Norah's story by getting in touch with helplines about the violence they endure.

Speaking candidly on The Late Late Show last Friday night, Norah opened up about how she was subjected to traumatic physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her first husband, Peter.

She faced beatings, was locked out of her house, spent time in hospital and lied about injuries she received at the hands of a man she loved. They included three broken ribs and a broken cheekbone.

On the way home from a dinner the night before they were due to go on holiday, he was irritated.

"We were coming into the drive and he slammed on the brakes. There was a bad atmosphere. I went to get out of the car and he got out and he came round to my side and I thought he was going to give me a hug," Norah said.

"Instead, he grabbed my head and slammed it off the side of the car, really forcibly, and then he just casually opened the door of the house and walked in.

"I eventually followed him in and sat on the couch for ages. He went upstairs to bed. I was stunned. 'God did that really happen, did he really do that'? He seemed so normal and casual about just going up to bed.

"All night I am sitting there, thinking what am I going to do about tomorrow? And here's the terrible thing, if I'm being really honest: I was thinking how was I going to camouflage the bruising around the side of my face."

The following day when they were sitting on the plane, he reached over and touched Norah's face. It was swollen. "He had tears in his eyes and he said, 'I am really, really sorry. That was a terrible thing for me to do. It was the stress of work and the holiday and I shouldn't have done that'."

Apologising was part of the process.

"When you love someone, and you believe they love you, you forgive them. You want to believe that they are going to change. It was the start of me saying I was to blame."

On another occasion he reached for a knife in the kitchen. He was screaming at her that it was her own fault. She had refused to get into a car with him because he had been drinking. She later followed him home.

"Eventually he pulled me into the house and battered me senseless.

"He kicked me, he punched me, he got me on the ground, and he went to get a knife from the kitchen.

"I don't know how I did it but I pulled myself up and I barricaded myself into the sitting room. I was winded and couldn't breath very well."

Women's Aid director Margaret Martin described Norah's story as moving and powerful. She said it will resonate with thousands of women across the country.

"It is not an easy step for women to talk about domestic violence they have suffered, especially publicly," said Margaret.

"It can take years for women to say something to even those closest to them. For others, it may never be safe to speak publicly about what has happened. Women who experience domestic violence have been shamed, stigmatised and isolated. Very often they are told by their abuser that the violence is their fault and that no one will believe them."

She added Norah's experience and her ability to speak about it will empower women. "Women will see that they are not alone and will be encouraged to reach out for help," said Margaret.

"Indeed, women have contacted our national helpline for support in the wake of the interview. Other survivors have shared their admiration for Norah and told of their own experiences on our social media pages."

Ms Casey said she has struggled to tell her story until now. The abuse happened over a nine-year period after the couple met when Norah was in her 20s. No one knew what was going on because she was ashamed and embarrassed.

"I think it is healing sometimes to tell people, but I didn't expect to tell the whole country. I ask myself all the time, why didn't I do it before this?

"I can't tell you over the years how your self-esteem goes through the floor. I was the original five to nine; I was leaving as early as possible for work and staying as long as possible to avoid going home.

"In my head, I was leaving all the time. Every Friday I came home from work and said [to myself] I was leaving. Every Monday I cried on the way into work in despair, saying 'why didn't I leave him?'

"We are the first generation to share our testimony. All those brave people who talked in the Yes campaign, people who talked about child sexual abuse, about alcoholism, about addiction. If we take our secrets to the grave, we are not passing anything on to humanity, to the next generation."

Anyone affected by domestic violence can visit www.womensaid.ie or call the Women's Aid 24 hour Freephone Helpline on 1800 341 900.

Sunday Independent

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