Answers to questions women usually ask about contacting COPE Galway Domestic Abuse Service
What happens when I call your Domestic Abuse Service helpline?
Our phone line (091 565 985) is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can whenever you need to.
One of our team will take your call – her role is to listen. She will listen to all you have to say and will answer any questions you have. She may also ask you some questions to help you tell your story; she will explain to you that your conversation is confidential, except where there may be a significant risk to any person or child.
Our team member will want to be sure you are safe, so will ask you about that.
Many women call and have no particular question – they may not be ready to take any action but simply want to tell someone what is happening; sometimes, they want to cry. And that is fine with us.
Our team member will ask you what you need right now, what you hope we can do for you. She may guide you on options that are open to you. You can then think through these options, and make your own decisions about what you want to do.
If you are injured or in danger, she will advise you to make contact with the Gardai or to seek medical attention. She may offer you refuge, if that is what is needed for you then.
Our service is built around you – what you need, when you need it. We will never make decisions for you, never tell you what to do, never judge the choices you make.
We are ready for your call, whenever you are ready to make it.
What is it like to stay in the refuge?
Coming to a refuge can seem like a very big step – most women come in an emergency, with little time to think about it in advance.
When you come here, our team will welcome you – this is a calm, welcoming and safe space. We want you to feel safe with us.
On admission, we’ll want to make sure that you are well. If you require medical attention, we will arrange for that. We’ll help you settle in, listen to whatever you want to tell us, and let you get some sleep. Sometimes a woman can be very upset when she first arrives – other women are often too tired to speak. If you have left home in a hurry, we have what you need here – clothes, toiletries, enough to get started.
If you have children with you, our team will help take care of them. They will be a little scared by the strangeness of the situation, and may be very clingy. Our team are very experienced with children and will help them to relax and engage in normal activities.
We will eventually sit down with you to complete some paperwork – when you are ready. We’ll let tell us your story and what you hope to do next – that way we can work with you to get what you want.
In your time with us, we will help you talk about how the relationship has been. Talking will help you clear your head so you are clearer about what you want; the distance can give you a clearer perspective and you will reach better decisions for yourself and your children.
If you wish to pursue legal orders, we can help with that. We can also work with you on welfare and housing matters, if these are relevant to you.
Refuge is a space where a woman can press pause on the chaos in her life. This small break is often enough for a woman to think straight and make choices. When those choices are made, we will help you put them into action.
Will Social Services take my children from me if I get in touch with your service?
We understand that this is a real fear for mothers – that if they ask for help, Social Services will become involved and they can end up losing their children. We also understand that sometimes it is a fear which an abusive partner can play upon, telling his partner that if she speaks to anyone about what’s going on, she will lose her children. It is enough to keep a lot of mothers silent.
So, will you lose your children if you speak with us?
We are required by law, as many agencies are, to tell Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, whenever we believe a child is at risk or is not being properly cared for. This is done in the form of a report. This can happen where a mother tells us she is afraid for her child, or where a child tells us of things that are going on. If we believe there is risk to the child, we will speak with the mother about it and then make the report together. Every mother understands that this is being done for one reason only – to protect her child.
So, what happens then?
Once we put in a report, a social worker will get in touch with the mother and an assessment is carried out. The mother can tell what has been going on for the child, and the social worker will make an assessment as to whether they need to be involved, and if so, for how long. It is not their goal to take children away – their goal is to work with the mother, to keep the children safe.
What does your service do for children?
Many women are prompted to look for help when they see their children are being affected by what’s going on at home. In lots of cases, a woman will tell us that the child doesn’t know what’s happening; in our experience, this is rarely the case. A child can pick up on an atmosphere, can pick up on tension and can feel the emotion in the home. He is very often acutely aware of the fear and the sense of dread that can be present.
Every child will need support to understand what is happening within their family when there is domestic abuse. They need time to process what is happening and to understand what healthy and unhealthy relationships are. Children can miss the non-resident parent if the parents are separated and feel angry or upset that their lives have changed so much.
We can offer one to one support work in particular for a child who might not be ready for group work; we can gently explore their feelings, worries, confusion, hopes and dreams. Group work is great for children where they can meet other children who have experienced similar situations and they get to see that it hasn’t only happened to them.
Teenagers are at a stage where they are exploring relationships and it is important that they understand what behaviours are healthy in a dating relationship and what behaviours are not healthy. Our children and young people’s service also has an outreach remit and is available to support children and young people in the city and county of Galway be it one to one or group work. That support also extends to parenting support and a parenting programme designed for the context of domestic abuse.