Rae is 31 years old. She has been in Ireland for 15 years. When she first met her former partner, he was caring and loving. They married and had two children.
But he soon became controlling and paranoid about her having an affair. He would verbally abuse her and eventually forced her to stop working.
They moved to a remote location in the midlands. He cut her off from friends, stopping her from speaking to them online, saying she was talking to other men.
A short time after Rae had their second child, he locked her and the baby in a room for hours and unplugged the internet so she couldn’t reach out to anyone.
Rae first got in touch with COPE Galway’s Domestic Abuse Service after finding out he was having an affair. An outreach worker listened to her story and explained what her options were, including availing of the refuge, and how she could get help from the courts. Staff spoke with her about empowerment, unhealthy relationships and recognising signs of abuse.
Her partner said he was sorry and would go to counselling to try to change, so she gave him another chance. The abuse worsened.
When Rae confronted him after finding out he was still having an affair he became physically abusive. She escaped with her children and ran to a neighbour’s house, who called the Gardaí on her behalf.
“Again, I forgave him straight away,” Rae said. “I was thinking, ‘Maybe it’s because of me – he’s just made a mistake and it’s actually all my fault I was beaten’. I was so confused.
But his controlling behaviour escalated. He would call her at work and force her to leave her phone on in her pocket so he could listen in on her conversations. He called her boss and fabricated that she was having an affair with a colleague. One time he was waiting for her at home and asked why she was late, accusing her and verbally abusing her in front of their children.
It was then she decided to end the relationship and got back in touch with COPE Galway’s Domestic Abuse Service. They helped her to recognise his actions as controlling by asking her to write down a list of the behaviours.
“It was scary. I saw all the red flags there.”
“I didn’t know at the time it was controlling abuse. But now I think back, it was there from the beginning. I thought it was just normal in any relationship. I didn’t realise until I wrote down my story”.
Rae moved into the refuge and tried to bring her children with her, but her partner told her if she did, he’d call the Gardaí. “I didn’t understand at the time,” she said. Rae went to the refuge at Modh Eile House alone. Once staff explained her rights, Rae grew confident and brought her children in.
She stayed at the refuge for seven months.
“Modh Eile House helped me a lot,” Rae said. “They gave me full support and through that I [now] feel confident to make the right choice, to take the right path in my life.”
Determined, Rae took more steps to live independently. She kept working and moved the children to a school closer to her.
“The first time I reached out to COPE Galway I didn’t know what to do. My head was all over the place. I didn’t know how to make a decision. I just wanted other people to decide for me. Now I can decide for myself. I know what to do.”
Rae and her children are currently in temporary accommodation through COPE Galway’s Family Support Service. The Domestic Abuse Outreach Team continues to support her, which she says gives her “strength and courage”.
“There’s no way I could have done this alone, I’m very thankful for all their support. They believe in me.”
She urges others in the same situation to seek support even if they feel hopeless.
“Don’t keep it to yourself. It’s important to seek help – it’s made such a difference to me. It’s given me hope.”