THERE has been an increase in the number of women from county Limerick seeking the services of Adapt, a refuge and support service for women experiencing domestic abuse.
New figures obtained by the Limerick Leader show that Adapt, which is based in Limerick city, supported 420 women last year, had 211 admissions to its refuge, and also supported over 300 children in dealing with the effects of abuse within the home.
Monica McElvaney, director of Adapt, said there has been an increase in women coming forward to seek the support of their outreach clinics and support groups in Newcastle West and Kilmallock, as well as Watchhouse Cross on the northside of the city.
The venue of the meetings in all locations is not publicised in the interest of the women.
Ms McElvaney stressed that women do not have to seek refuge to require the services of Adapt, and while their outreach clinics are based in two county locations, they will travel wherever there is a need, and they will meet them at a location that suits them and protects their privacy.
“The message we want to get out to women in the county is that we can go to you. We are here to support women subjected to any form of domestic abuse,” she said.
The women who seek their services are aged from 18 to 70, and are from all social and economic backgrounds.
“We have had an increase in the number of people from different professions and income levels. This is not about your age or income level,” she said.
The number of women of diverse nationalities seeking their services has dropped by some 20% on previous figures, due to the downturn in the economy, but they still constitute a “significant minority”.
In the refuge, which can take up to 13 families, the length of stay can vary from one night to four months.
Adapt’s ‘healthy relationship’ programme has also been introduced in schools across Limerick, to encourage teenagers of both sexes to recognise what is a healthy relationship and what could be damaging to them.
Ms McElvaney said she has concerns of how the reduction in rent allowance, as well as other cuts to family incomes in the Budget, could impact on a woman’s decision to leave a volatile relationship.
“People will constantly ask ‘why doesn’t she leave’? But it takes as much courage to stay, as it does to leave. Our approach is ‘what does she want to do?’.”
She pointed out that there is occasionally a greater risk to a woman’s safety when she tries to leave a relationship, which also has to be taken into account.
While television adverts highlight child abuse in the home, there is virtually no publicity on Irish TV around the abuse women suffer. But she pointed out: “If we could better protect the women, we could better protect the child.”
Like alcohol, she said, the pressures born of the economic recession are not a cause of abuse, but a catalyst, and there are centres available for men to seek treatment, including Move Ireland (men overcoming violence)
The centre, whose funds from the HSE are declining, relies on fundraising some €150,000 per annum to continue its services
Adapt helpline is 1800 200 504
Move helpline (men overcoming violence) is 065 684 8689