For most people the 5th of November 2013 was a night like most other nights. Nothing that stands out or immediately comes to mind. For people with children home, homework, supper and bed. Remarkable in its own unremarkability. But for 115 women and 155 children, home was a domestic violence refuge on the 5th November 2013. A night to remember and the night that preceded it, the night that forced them to flee from what is in the vast majority of cases the violence of men.
In January 2012 Respond opened Cuan Alainn, a Women’s Refuge based in Tallaght catering for women and their children fleeing from domestic violence in response to an identified need for the service in the area. Respond has funded the service from its own resources for the past three years, something it cannot continue to do into the future without State subvention.
“Male-on-female violence,” is according to Elaine Burnett, manager of Cuain Alainn, “classless and ageless. It respects neither location nor ethnicity, women of means or women of no means. That it happens is nothing short of shocking. That NGOs like ours are left to pick up the pieces reflects terribly on the State. That we have so few resources to do so, simply adds to the injury”.
In the last year, Respond spent €350,000 funding a centre for women and their children. From our own resources and without any subvention from the State. Without some State subvention then future normal service cannot be guaranteed. And if this centre does not survive, on any given night nine women and their children will have no place to go.
This week seven women and fourteen children are finding refuge here. The youngest: eight weeks of age. Eight weeks to encounter life’s harsh normality.
“To date a total of 49 women and 71 children have accessed our service”, a deeply frustrated Elaine Burnett stated. “We can cater for nine families at any one time. It is heart-breaking having to turn people away. Desperate people. And there is no way of knowing how many more people are out there, living in fear for their safety and that of their children.”
“The State must take its responsibility seriously and fund services for some of the most vulnerable members of our society” commented Ned Brennan, Chief Operations Officer with the Housing charity.
Women and children living in fear. And fear too, that the one place they can be sure of their safety may not remain open.
This should not happen.