Meet Jackie, COPE Galway Domestic Abuse Service’s Longest Serving Team Member
Jackie Carroll sees great benefit to having spent thirty years working in the area of domestic abuse. Over the years, she has progressed from frontline crisis towards a more healing and preventative approach, which is where her passion lies.
Jackie still remembers her first call, from a woman who was seriously assaulted by her partner and later came into refuge. She recalls seeing her years later, on Shop Street in Galway, and said she “looked like a completely different woman.”
She started out as relief worker in the women’s refuge, then in Waterside House and the women’s homeless hostel, which was based in Westside House at that time.
Jackie was drawn to this area of work because of her interest in human rights, instilled by her father and explored as a student through a placement with Women’s Aid in Dublin.
In 1996 she took on the role of supervisor on a resettlement project and then worked in the Fairgreen Hostel for a year until 2001. She then began her journey in domestic abuse services as an outreach and residential worker at Waterside House.
As the service developed, Jackie’s work began to involve raising awareness around domestic abuse as she responded to requests from outside organisations for training, such as to health and social care students at University of Galway.
In 2010, however, the demands of covering Galway city and county as a lone outreach worker, while delivering regular training, became too much. “I was seeing clients back-to-back one day and delivering training the next,” she remembers. “It was too much for one person and I completely burnt out.”
Signed off on stress leave, Jackie hit a crossroads, questioning if she should stay in this work. She decided it was still where her passion lay and that she needed more support and balance in her life.
“That’s when I moved into the area of mindfulness, self-care and learning how to take care of myself.”
Things improved when she returned from leave: there was funding for an extra outreach worker and Jackie received support from colleagues to deliver training.
She paid homage to all the colleagues she’s worked with over the years and the “very deep friendships that have formed”.
Jackie is proud of the contribution she has made to changing perceptions on domestic abuse.
She particularly enjoyed collaborating with Ciara from Solas Óg and women who use the outreach service, to develop a parenting programme. This culminated in a booklet, now regularly used by other refuges and support services throughout the country.
“I would describe the highs in my career as my work with women, witnessing their courage and survival skills in the face of domestic abuse.”
Another highlight was the introduction of a Routine Enquiry into Domestic Abuse in Pregnancy to Galway University Hospital (GUH) and Portiuncula Hospital, thanks to a collaboration with Maeve Tonge, maternity social worker in GUH.
“I feel that was a really important piece of work,” said Jackie, as today, the hospitals ask all pregnant women about safety in their relationships.
Jackie recognises that today there is much greater acknowledgement of mental health and the attention it needs in this line of work.
“I think the deeper understanding that I’ve developed now would have really helped back then.”