I have always held these words of Thomas Pringle, TD, "Raising awareness on domestic abuse needs to be constantly held in our conscious mind. It is an everyday reality with devastating consequences."
It could be your mother, your sister, grandmother, aunt, friend or neighbour ... it could be you.
No matter what the circumstances, the perpetrator is always responsible for their actions. It is not your fault. You deserve to be treated with respect.
September last year, 40 first-year art students from Donegal Abbey Vocational School benefited from ‘Heading for Happy Relationships,’ a workshop delivered by Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service (DWDVS).
The students created an art and poetry exhibition to highlight the impact of domestic abuse, which was displayed in Donegal town Public Service Centre.
Karl Lacey, Donegal county player and a strong public advocate of the Donegal MAN UP campaign, launched the exhibition. A former AVS student, Karl spoke about the importance of the students understanding the issue and being able to speak out.
“I feel passionate about this subject and the importance of speaking out. The art and poetry created by the students is just phenomenal and really gets the message across. Domestic abuse is not just about physical violence so often it is emotional and psychological abuse and these cannot be seen,'' he said.
Karl reflected on a poster featuring the words, "The pain will fade but the memory will stay”. He went on to state, ''This is a simple but very powerful message and we all know how true this is for all of us who have been affected in an emotional way by life. People think they are being brave by putting on the brave face, holding it all in. Speaking up, sharing how you are feeling, is being brave.''
One student had used the world famous Bart and Marge Simpson as a way of connecting with a young audience and getting the message across that domestic abuse is unacceptable in any family.
Karl spoke about the importance of young people knowing about healthy and unhealthy relationships from an early age, in order to be able to have the confidence to speak out. He congratulated everyone involved in this project and the school for their participation and dedication in raising awareness on this very sensitive and serious issue.
As well as raising awareness with the students, this exhibition was greatly praised by many of the public. One woman commented: ''I very much enjoyed the written pieces and poetry. It showed great understanding of the epidemic that is domestic violence. Well done to these fantastic students for playing their part in highlighting an extremely important social issue.''
MAN UP Campaign
When asked about the local and national statistics Karl said, ''It is truly shocking when you think that behind the figures, it is someone’s mother, daughter, sister, aunt or loved one. The fact that women are four times more likely to be murdered by someone they know than a stranger is hard to believe or understand. These facts highlight the need for men to play a positive role in their family and their communities and the importance of involving and educating young people, of what is and what is not acceptable behaviour.''
My hope is that in the coming year everyone in Donegal will be talking about The MAN UP campaign and lending their support by speaking out against the abuse of women and children.
Marie Hainsworth, Manager of Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service said, ''I feel that it is important to work with young people on the dynamics of domestic violence. ‘Heading for Happy Relationships’ encourages young people to think about present and future relationships and to realise that with choices comes consequences, which can be either positive or negative.
"With the support of NCCWN-Donegal Women’s Network we are delighted this programme is being delivered in south Donegal," she said.
DWDVS and NCCWN-Donegal Women’s Network thanked Geraldine Diver, principal of the Abbey Vocational School, Donegal town, art teacher John Daly and all the students for giving of their time and talent.
Bridie Mc Brearty, manager, Donegal town Public Service Centre, and the staff were also thanked for their support and assistance with this very well worthwhile exhibition.
Support Information and Advocacy Services
Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service Freephone 24hr helpline: 1800 262 677
Donegal Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre Freephone Helpline: 1800 448844
I would like to take this opportunity to remember Fiona Doherty, former Manager of Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service who sadly passed away this time last year.