Wednesday 21 February 2018

Miriam O'Callaghan: Domestic violence victim's face still haunts me... get help before it's too late

Miriam O'Callaghan first encountered domestic abuse as a young volunteer. The victim's face still haunts her to this day

Miriam O’Callaghan. Photo: Damien Eagers
Miriam O’Callaghan. Photo: Damien Eagers

Miriam O'Callaghan

I was about 20 at the time and a law student when I first came up close and personal with violence in the home. It was a chilling encounter.

I had volunteered to work part-time for the Free Legal Aid Centres in Dublin. One evening, a woman, probably in her 30s, came in. There were bruises all over her face and arms. She had two very young children with her - a beautiful little boy whose hollow, gazing brown eyes I still remember, and a girl slightly older, quiet and pale, who just stared at her mother throughout the meeting.

He had come home angry again, she said, and he was drunk again. I took careful notes. No, she said, if I didn't mind, she would not give me her name or address. This fragile, kind-eyed woman just wanted a bit of advice, she said, quietly but firmly. Her husband regularly beat her, she explained, but only when he was angry, which she kept repeating. Her children were silent. This time was the worst though, she said. He was very angry and had kicked her in the head for what seemed like an age, as she lay on the kitchen floor.

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