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Creating refuge for fleeing families

Date: 26 November 2022

We continue to mark the 16 Days of Activism with a story provided by the Mother's Union and highlighting the much needed refuge Women's Aid can offer to those women and children needing to flee an abusive household.

Ailish’s story

“That Christmas, I couldn’t take any more. Things were getting more and more volatile – not only were we walking on eggshells but we were holding our breath so often and for so long that we felt like we were running out of oxygen.

Christmas day was spent with my three children huddled around the kitchen table staring at the tiny portable TV screen and taking turns to hold the broken indoor aerial in a certain position. He, on the other hand, was lying on our huge seven-seater settee watching the 47-inch brand new TV. We weren’t allowed to go in there. 

As Christmas turned into another new year, things got worse. I could sense his rage bubbling under the surface, ready to explode. I also knew that, in order to shield the children from it, I would be in the firing line. He had almost killed me once, this time I might not be so lucky.

I contacted Women’s Aid. They couldn’t find a place for us straightaway, as just after Christmas is the busiest time. Tis the season to be jolly…ha! But after a few days, find us a place they did. As soon as he left for work, we ran.

When my children and I arrived at a women’s refuge, scared, skint and emotionally battered, I had no idea what to expect. We were shown to our room and left to settle in. And you know what? Those nights in the refuge were the happiest we had known in years.

The children played to their hearts’ content, they laughed, they tumbled, and they were children. We bought what we wanted and ate when we wanted. Nobody shouted at us for making too much noise when we ate, or for spilling a drink, or for dropping a knife on the table. We were free. It was bliss.

I wasn’t strong enough that first time. Amid hundreds of suicide threats from him, promises of change, and counselling, I went back. And that night he did it again… But something inside me had changed, I was no longer going to put myself, and more importantly my children, through it. [With ongoing support] I went to court, got a court order, and had him removed from the house.

I would never have had the strength to do it if it hadn’t been for the time we spent in that refuge. Being there changed our lives. I met the strongest, most inspirational women I have ever met. Women who had lost everything yet had the ability to rise again from the ashes.”

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