Rachel arrived in Ireland nearly twenty years ago. She’s organised, hard working by nature – before long she had her own business. She is part of her local community and, through friends, she met a man from her home country.
Looking back, Rachel can now see all the warning signs, he was intense from the start of the relationship. He wanted to know where she was at all times, calling her and checking on her movements. Other people gave her subtle warnings. She didn’t know then that he had a criminal record and had murdered a child back home.
A pattern of coercive control which extended to violence, developed quickly. He watched and manipulated her every move, stalking her and threatening phsyical and sexual violence. She believed that he was only abusing her and not their two children. She was wrong. Only years later, she found out that the man who abused and terrified her, had also sexually and physically abused their children.
When Rachel realised that she could not protect herself or her children, she sought help from legal professionals, healthcare and social workers.
Rachel suffered a stroke while dealing with the added stress of seeking protection for her children. While she was fighting for her life, and at her most vulnerable, the majority of state services continued to prioritise the children’s contact with their father.
Thanks to one court-appointed expert with extensive experience in child protection and probation services, Rachel kept custody of her children, and recovered from her stroke. Afterwards using Freedom of Information requests, Rachel discovered that some state agencies had actively worked against her. They had tried to silence her, described her as ‘a crazy woman.’. and failed to investigate the significant evidence of prolonged abuse experienced by Rachel. They didn’t check the validity of the children’s disclosures of abuse, instead they moved to have her declared mentally unfit to care for her children. They tried to have them returned to their abuser or placed in care.
Rachel’s case highlights how a perpetrator can be aided by policy, structures and attitudes among legal, social and healthcare professionals, policy and institutional services. These are professionals, they are supposed to protect and help women but in many cases they victimise women and children, over and over again, leading to further trauma.
*Not her real name
“Every woman and child has the right to live free from fear and the threat of further violence. That is regardless of how our constitution, legal, healthcare, social legislation are interpreted and regardless of inadequate policy decisions such as ‘Children First’. SiSi is here to create change that lasts, inform effective interventions which hold perpetrators to account and prevent them from causing further harm to their victims”