Monday 19 August 2019

'I'm on a new path and I'm stronger than ever' - abuse survivor Emma

The domestic abuse survivor has no regrets and calls on other Irish women to speak out, writes Claire Mc Cormack

Emma Murphy who was a victim of domestic violence pictured on the stairs in her home where she delcared to the world via a video on social media that she was getting abused. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Emma Murphy who was a victim of domestic violence pictured on the stairs in her home where she delcared to the world via a video on social media that she was getting abused. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Claire Mc Cormack

The first time the world saw Emma Murphy, she was sitting at the bottom of her staircase with a black eye, a broken heart and a camera phone.

The mother of two was about to reveal her deepest, darkest secret - she was a victim of domestic violence.

Shaking and in tears, Emma (26) spent five minutes and 38 seconds recording her message.

She made just one recording, and then posted it online.

Four months later, sitting on the same step at her home in north Dublin, Emma tells the Sunday Independent she has "no regrets" and "feels stronger than ever".

She was speaking days after delivering a keynote speech at the third World Conference of Women's Shelters - an international event attended by more than 1,000 advocates and activists representing 115 countries.

Emma shared the podium with actress Ashley Judd (both pictured right), Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, former Miss World and abuse victim Linor Abargil, and many other delegates.

The conference called on governments, UN agencies, international organisations, the private sector and civil society to take urgent action to end violence against women and children.

A clip from Emma's video was played to a packed auditorium and the young mum gave an unscripted speech from the heart, for which she received a standing ovation.

Emma's courage to speak out over the last few months has made her realise her true path in life - she intends to become an advocate for sufferers of domestic violence.

She also hopes to work on a future awareness-raising project with Ms Judd after exchanging details with the actor, author, activist and humanitarian at the conference last weekend.

First, however, Emma says she must complete her recovery and personal development in order to find herself again.

"Every day is different, I'm on a new path and I feel stronger than I ever thought I could be," said Emma.

Emma's former partner, Francis Usanga, a TV fitness coach, admitted to pushing Emma days after the video was published last July.

"I lost the head and basically pushed her straight in the face. I shoved her in the face. It was a real forceful shove in the face. It was pretty violent and there's no excuse at all and I'm extremely sorry for that," he said.

Emma's harrowing video went viral within hours. Emails, social media messages, calls and texts flooded in and the next day her story featured in countless major Irish, UK, US and Australian newspapers.

But going public was a very difficult decision.

Emma says she was embarrassed and ashamed that everyone would know.

"Your whole life is out there. I knew I would be walking around with a black eye. It was embarrassing, I would be very vulnerable," she said.

Despite the traumatic experience, Emma remains a tower of strength and says she knows she did the right thing. She focused on the message she wanted to send to other women in the same situation.

Her message has been heard loud and clear.

To date, Emma has received hundreds of thousands of emails from people all over the world sharing their own stories and asking her for advice.

Her video has also been viewed nine million times on Facebook.

She says the response has been "unbelievable" and that the correspondence with other survivors is helping her heal.

"I've put on weight again. At one stage I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror. I had lost a lot of weight, I was about six-and-a-half stone, I was disgusting. I completely lost myself," she said, praising her three siblings, her father Laurence, and friends for their loyalty and support.

"I've got a better attitude and a better outlook on life," she said.

"People are saying they're inspired by my story. I've had people tell me they've left their relationship and some say they're going to shelters because they realise they're not alone," she said.

Emma praises their bravery and advises them to confide in loved ones.

"When you isolate yourself, it is the worst thing you can do. There are so many people and support groups out there," she said.

On a bad day, Emma says she feels drained, upset, and emotional and ends up thinking about the past.

But it doesn't last long.

"I know when I have a bad day, it's just a bad day. I know tomorrow will be better," she said.

Her good days are consumed by positive thinking. She derives great spirit from her children, aged one and two years.

Although women's rights organisations reported a rise in calls after Emma's story broke, she believes Ireland is still failing victims of domestic violence and she is calling for more transparency.

"As a society, we need to talk about it more. From childhood on, there is no reason why it should be silent," she said.

"If my one story has already helped all these people, then imagine what could happen if more people speak out," she said.

Sunday Independent

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