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Vodafone Ireland Foundation has announced the launch of Bright Sky Ireland, a free app that connects victims of domestic violence and abuse to support services across Ireland.

This app is the latest addition to Vodafone Foundation’s domestic violence project, which uses connectivity to help support those affected by domestic abuse here and across Europe.

Bright Sky Ireland is created with the UK-based domestic abuse charity Hestia, along with Women’s Aid Ireland and An Garda Síochána.

So how does it work?

Users can locate their nearest support center by searching their area, eircode or current location. 

They will also have to fill out a short questionnaire that will help them assess the safety of a relationship while also providing information about different forms of abuse such as sexual violence, stalking, and harassment.

The app also highlights the types of supports available, steps to consider if leaving an abusive relationship and how to help a friend affected by domestic abuse.

As well as all of that, the app contains a ground-breaking feature designed to log incidents of domestic abuse without any content being saved on the device itself.

It works by allowing users to send information about incidents in a secure digital journal, using a text, audio, video or photo function.

Evidence collated through this function will enable Gardaí to intervene and can help secure prosecutions.

According to Vodafone Foundation, statistics regarding domestic abuse are terrifying – 31% of Irish workers have experienced some form of domestic abuse while  63% experienced psychological abuse and control.

Also, 47% experienced physical violence, 23% experienced sexual violence or abuse and 19% experienced stalking. 

Sarah Benson, Executive Director of Women’s Aid said, ''A very important feature of the app is the myth-busting information as well as quiz to help people recognise the signs of abuse.''

She continued, ''However, our biggest hope is that the ability to log incidents of abuse whether it’s photos, text notes or recordings, will help women experiencing abuse gather the pattern of evidence they need to avail of legal protection and secure convictions of the new crime of coercive control.”

This is fantastic news and we hope women in need will avail of this service. 

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Love Island's Joe Garratt has been hidden in a 'safehouse' since he was voted off the show after severe viewer backlash to his relationship with Lucie Donlan.

According to The Sun, the 22-year-old has been transferred to another location with two security guards and has been briefed about the online fury over his apparent 'possessive' behaviour towards Lucie.

"Joe has been in the safehouse since leaving the villa," an insider from the hit ITV reality show told the publication. Joe's friends and family have slammed the "unfair editing" of the show.

“There has been a backlash against him and as part of ITV’s new duty of care, they’re doing everything they can to help him deal with it when he comes out.”

Lucie was devastated after her coupling partner was voted off the island, along with Elma Pazar. The surfer spoke to cameras after his eviction, saying;

"I'm gutted. You could clearly see that me and Joe had feelings for each other. I don't know what I'll do without Joe. He's literally been my rock in here."

Joe promised to wait for the 21-year-old model/surfer outside of the Spanish villa. Joe's mum is said to be 'devastated' by the claims that her son is emotionally controlling Lucie.

The sandwich maker fell hard for the Cornish gal in the villa but was booted out, thanks to fellow islanders saying himself and Lucie weren't compatible.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Joe Garratt (@josephgarratt) on

Speaking to the Mail Online, Joe's mum said: "I know my son and he’s not like how he’s being portrayed."

Women's Aid charity expressed their concern over Joe's actions, and viewers branded his behaviour "abusive", after he told her that her male friendships were 'weird' and that he wanted her to bond with the girls instead.

His mum, Rachel, has denied the claims; "Both myself and his sister are his best friends. He doesn’t emotionally control anyone. What has been said in the newspapers today is just sheer rubbish, that is not my boy."

She continued: "I see him every day of the week and there’s no way he would make a girl cry. He’s a normal, loving 22-year-old lad."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Joe Garratt (@josephgarratt) on

She described his everyday life as a reason for his behaviour being different to what he was portrayed as on the show, which is a bit irrelevant? You can go to the gym and be emotionally controlling but alright…

"He’s got hundreds of friends, he goes to the gym every day. They all love him. He goes and plays rugby at the local club, they all love him.

"No friend he’s got, boy or girl, nor any of his ex-girlfriends have got a bad word to say about him," she added. "It’s a real shame this has happened."

The ITV2 show has received over 800 Ofcom complaints over Joe's relationship attitude toward Lucie. Women's Aid described Joe as having "possessive behaviour."

Donlan’s mum has also come out in support of her daughter's relationship with Joe. Speaking to the MailOnline, Celine said that her daughter is “very happy” on the show

Celine also praised ITV for the support they've been giving to both Lucie and the family.

"Lucie should stay on the show," she said.

"We've got no worries over her what so ever, she's very happy. The support given to her and us as a family by ITV has been amazing."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Joe Garratt (@josephgarratt) on

The sandwich seller is now holed up in a Majorcan hotel where he will remain in hiding before flying home to the UK. This is standard Love Island procedure for the reality stars.

ITV bosses brought in new standards of aftercare this year, so it's looking likely that they are protecting Joe from the online anger against him.

He was bombarded with furious messages online over his romance with Lucie, and was accused of being "abusive" for asking her to spend less time with her friend, Tommy Fury.

Lucie is now distraught, and appears to be on the verge of voluntarily leaving the show. Lucie isn't sure how she'll cope without her partner, and is shown in tears in a clip from tonight's episode.

Many fans were also left raging over Amy's treatment of Lucie, after spotting her pulling a face when Lucie was saved.

Feature image: ITV/Love Island

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The Lucie-Joe situation on Love Island is getting out of hand – if you look at social media.

The 22-year-old Londoner has been accused of manipulative and controlling behaviour towards his partner, 21-year-old Lucie Donlon.

The surfer has been shown to be in tears on numerous occasions when Joe has said he doesn't like her close relationship with Tommy and thinks she should hang out with the girls more.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Lucie Rose Donlan (@lucierosedonlan) on

Now, Women’s Aid UK has released a statement regarding this behaviour.

Adina Claire is the Co-Chief Executive of the woman's advocacy group and she was the one who spoke about the subject.

She said, ''Controlling behaviour is never acceptable, and with Love Island viewers complaining to Ofcom in record numbers about Joe’s possessive behaviour towards Lucie, more people are becoming aware of this and want to challenge it.''

She continued, ''Abusive relationships often start off with subtle signs of control, so it’s important that it is recognised at an early stage. Love Island viewers are now very vocal in calling out unhealthy behaviour between couples on the show, and this is a positive development.”

Fans of the show are also worried for Lucie as it seems that she is quite isolated in there now, with no-one except Maura going to see if she was ok after her talk with Joe.

One said, ''Can’t believe Joe really just said “think it’s time to get close to the girls” to Lucie like????? Is she not allowed male friends. Lucie pls leave him.''

While another wrote, ''Lucie is probably the least shadiest girl in the villa and she's been nothing but nice but sis is out here crying every night because she feels so alienated thanks to Amy's manipulations. And to make things worse now Joe's turned too.''

Producers of the show have said that they are taking the situation seriously.

A spokesman said, ''We take the emotional well-being of all the islanders extremely seriously. We have dedicated welfare producers and psychological support on hand at all times who monitor and regularly speak to all of the islanders in private and off camera, especially if someone appears to be upset.''

They continued, '' All the Islanders are therefore fully supported by the professionals on site and by their friends in the villa.This means islanders are always able to reach out and talk to someone if they feel the need. We will, of course, continue to monitor all of our islanders in line with our robust protocols.''

 

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised you can contact Women's Aid Ireland on free phone 24 hours a day on 1800 341 900.

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Women's Aid have launched a new guide on safety orders for young women who are experiencing abuse in their relationships, due to new laws being introduced.

The legislation brought in at the beginning of this year allows women who are going through dating abuse to apply for Safety and Protection orders.

Women's Aid are instigating the guide on Valentine's Day as part of the #TooIntoYou campaign to emphasise the darker side of love.

RTÉ's Can't Stop Dancing presenter Bláthnaid Treacy is also urging young women and men to "know the signs of dating abuse", especially because 60 percent of abuse in relationships begins before the age of 25.

Women's Aid are a national organisation which provides vital information and support to women experiencing dating abuse and domestic violence. Their #TooIntoYou campaign aims to spread much-needed awareness on the topic.

#TooIntoYou uses social media and poster advertising to strive for the spread of information from February 14 until March 8 (International Women's Day).

New laws brought in at the start of 2019 under the Domestic Violence Act 2018 allow women to apply for important Safety and Protection laws.

However, the organisation believes that many young women are still in the dark about the change and how to get the necessary protection, which is why Women's Aid ae bringing in the 'Guide to Safety Orders in Dating Relationships' online today.

Spotting the 10 key danger signs of dating abuse and providing information to combat online stalking and digital abuse is of imperative importance for women in Ireland today.

Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid says:

"1 in 5 women in Ireland experience abuse in relationships and in a national survey on domestic abuse in Ireland, almost 60 percent of those who had experienced severe abuse in intimate relationships first experienced it when they were under the age of 25."

"A stark reminder of this risk is that 1 in every 2 women, aged between 18-25, killed in Ireland since 1996 were murdered by their boyfriends or exes," Martin concluded.

The campaign is being launched on Valentine's Day to highlight the hidden reality of many young women's relationships, despite the fact that today is traditionally associated with love and romance.

Martin's goal for today, is to ask the hard questions; "We are clearly asking – what part of love is abuse?" She spoke directly to victims and survivors; “You are not alone in feeling something isn't right with your relationship."

Visit the #TooIntoYou website here for more information, or call the Women's Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline at 1800 341 900.

Feature image: Instagram'/@womens.aid

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Contrary to belief, domestic and dating abuse is common – and we all know someone who has experienced an abusive relationship in some form.

Whether or not you've been directly impacted by an ex or current partner who's behaviour is unacceptable – know you aren't alone and there is help out there.

Women's Aid has launched a new campaign to highlight their services and support available to any woman experiencing domestic violence and dating abuse.

The campaign comes as a new Domestic Violence Act provision, extending eligibility to young women in dating relationships, has still not commenced.

Image credit: Women's Aid

The woman's charity says it is continuing to support young women on its 24hr National Freephone Helpline and One to One Services who are being left unprotected and at risk because of these legal delays.

The awareness campaign #TooIntoYou aims to reach 18-25 years old women, to highlight the warning signs of abusive and controlling behaviour in their intimate relationships.

Women's aid want to get the nation talking about the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship.

In campaign, we meet eight characters, ‘Snooping Simon’, ‘Controlling Conor’, ‘Send Nudes Niall’, ‘Needy Neil’, ‘Dramatic Dan’, ’10 missed calls Ben’ and ‘Triple Text Thomas’ and ‘Why don’t you love me, Luke’.

Each of them reflects real situations we have all found ourselves in and it highlights the harmful ways that we could encounter dating abuse from our boyfriends or exes.

To get the conversation flowing about the issue of violence against women, a 70ft banner has been hung at Liberty Hall for three weeks, in the heart of Dublin. 

Image credit: Women's Aid

Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid explained why there is such a crucial need for this campaign.

“Dating abuse is a significant issue for our frontline support services and research has shown that while young women can be at even higher risk of abuse in a relationship than their older counterparts, it can be difficult for young women to see what is happening to them as abuse," she said.

"However, 39 percent of young women (aged 18-29) in Ireland have experienced emotional abuse by a boyfriend or partner and in a national survey on domestic abuse in Ireland, almost 60 percent of those who had experienced severe abuse in intimate relationships first experienced it when they were under the age of 25."

"A stark reminder of this risk is that one in every two women, aged between 18-25, killed in Ireland since 1996 were murdered by their boyfriends or exes,” she added. 

One of the leading voices behind the #TooIntoYou campaign is entrepreneur Norah Casey. Norah sees the campaign as an important measure to prevent abuse and relates her own experience of domestic violence at the hands of her first husband in her 20s.

Norah says: “This campaign is a shout out to young women everywhere about some of those early signs that a relationship might not be good for them. Help us to spread the word far and wide, every woman should know the signs."

"Prevention is far better than the consequences, tragically sometimes fatal, for women who are trapped in abusive and violent relationships.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Women's Aid (@womens.aid) on

Sarah Breen and Emer McLysaght, authors of Oh My God What a Complete Aisling are backing the campaign and spoke about including the issue of dating and domestic abuse in their latest book:

“While researching The Importance of Being Aisling we were shocked to discover just how prevalent dating abuse is in Ireland. No one deserves to feel unsafe or threatened in their relationship and it’s absolutely vital that women can spot the red flags early on. We fully support Women’s Aid’s #TooIntoYou campaign and hope that it will help those affected find the support they need to become safe.”

If you are anxious or worried about your relationship, Ms Martin says you aren't alone in feeling something isn't right in your relationship, and highlights some of the signs that indicates you're facing potential abuse. 

“Women in dating relationships contact Women's Aid every day because they are afraid of their boyfriends. Your boyfriend does not have the right to control and abuse you. You should not have to worry about how he will react to what you do."

"You may feel like you are 'walking on eggshells' and living in fear of his moods and temper. Dating abuse is wrong and no one deserves to be threatened, beaten or be in fear for their lives. We want women to know that they can speak to someone in confidence on our 24hr National Freephone Helpline (1800 341 900) to help make sense of what’s going on in their relationship,” she added. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Women's Aid (@womens.aid) on

If you're experiencing any type of abuse at the hands of your partner, there are people here to help and there is hope of getting out of the situation. 

The Women’s Aid 24 hour National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 is available seven days a week. 

You can find more information about the new campaign here.

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The top ten most dangerous countries for women in the world has been released, and we're not surprised. 

According to a survey commissioned by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, India is currently the worst place in the world for women, followed by war-torn countries Afghanistan and Syria. 

The United States also makes the list in tenth place. 

The poll was conducted around was conducted experts from Europe, Africa, the Americas, South East Asia, South Asia and the Pacific between March and May of this year. Respondents included aid professionals, academics, healthcare staff, non-government organisation workers, policy-makers, development specialists and social commentators.

The inclusion of the US on the list came as a surprise to some in the wake of the Me Too and Time's Up movements. 

"People want to think income means you're protected from misogyny, and sadly that's not the case," said Cindy Southworth, executive vice president of the Washington-based National Network to End Domestic Violence.

"We are going to look back and see this as a very powerful tipping point … We're blowing the lid off and saying '#Metoo and Time's Up'."

India ranked in first place due to the risks that women face from cultural and traditional practices, such as acid attacks, female genital mutilation, physical abuse and child marriage. However, this only seems to be worsening as the rate of reported crimes against women rose by 83 per cent between 2007 and 2016, with a sickening four cases of rape reported every hour.

India has made international headlines this year with a number of high-profile sexual assault cases. Earlier this year, eight men were accused of the gang rape of an eight-year-old girl and in April, a seven-year-old girl was raped and murdered during a wedding.

Protests saw thousands take to the streets in wake of the death of a 16-year-old girl, who was raped and burnt alive in her home. 

"India has shown utter disregard and disrespect for women … rape, marital rapes, sexual assault and harassment, female infanticide has gone unabated," Manjunath Gangadhara, an official at the Karnataka state government told Reuters.

"The (world's) fastest growing economy and leader in space and technology is shamed for violence committed against women."

India was also ranked the most dangerous country for women for human trafficking, including sex slavery and domestic servitude, as well as for traditional practices such as forced marriage, stoning and female infanticide.

The list also included Somalia, Saudi Arabia,  Pakistan, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen and Nigeria. 

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Figures from Women's Aid, Ireland's national domestic support organisation, show that 19,000 contacts were made to the domestic abuse support service in 2016.

As well as reports of domestic abuse, there were nearly 4,000 disclosures of child abuse, according to RTE.

The service launched its extended National Freephone Helpline as a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week service in September 2016, and this is the first report since that time. 

96 per cent of callers were women, while 4 per cent were men.

In regards to domestic abuse, the helpline saw a 70 per cent jump in calls logged, with 16,946 disclosures of domestic violence against women noted compared to 9,000 the year previously. 

11,000 of these calls were about emotional abuse, 3,500 were disclosures of assault and almost 700 were reports of rape, according to the report. 

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Ruth Fitzpatrick is 27 and is from Dublin. In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s US presidential election win, she felt compelled to speak out about her own harrowing experiences of sexual harassment, physical violence, and widespread misogyny.

This account has been written in her own words…

 

“Every four years we watch the American election extravaganza with a mixture of awe and thinly-veiled ridicule.

“But in reality, regardless of the result, we wake up the next morning and everything is largely unchanged.

“We feel a little smug, and then we move on. We have our own politicians to worry about and our own bills to pay.

“But today the world feels different. Because it is different.

“I made a decision just over a year ago to keep all negative experiences working overseas in the oil and gas industry private. I felt paralysed with guilt and shame. Indeed, less than half a dozen people – including those medical professionals who have helped me in recent months – knew the full extent of what actually happened.

“I had been well-informed and, I thought, well-prepared for my new job in August 2013: I was told on a number of occasions prior to me signing my contract that I would be one of very few – often the only – female workers living on the compound.  

“Quickly it began.

“‘Shut up. Be quiet. Shut up. Fat. Slut. Whore. Why don’t you wear skirts? Why don’t you wear make-up? Why do you wearing skirts now? Why don’t you wear more make-up? Fat. Slut. Whore. Shut up. Be quiet. Shut up.’

 

A photo posted by Ruth Fitzpatrick (@ruthiefizz) on

“Words do hurt. Words do break. And by the time the physical and sexual violence begins, words can have you so damaged that you feel completely stripped of power to stop it.

“Assault was daily. There were the constant derogatory comments about my appearance, and attempts to grope me during my work day. There was hair-pulling (I had no idea that that was a thing grown men did). Perpetrated by a small minority of men (but the majority rarely intervened) there were also moments of serious sexual and physical violence.

“It happened at a party: I was sitting at a table with a number of colleagues and some of the company’s clients. One colleague was convinced I had insulted him. Maybe I had. He was so angry he grabbed my head with such force that I sustained bruising and that he pulled out hair.

“He forced my head to his crotch and shouted: ‘SUCK MY COCK, BITCH: SUCK MY COCK.’

“There was some laughter. There was some mild scolding. One client, however, was appalled enough to get me away and back to my cabin. I probably would have archived this event like all the others: dismissed it as a simple workplace hazard and moved on. But the next day I had two separate visitors.

“The first was the man who had rescued me from the escalating situation the night before. He was horrified by what he’d witnessed. He gave me his details and told me to get in contact if I ever wanted to press charges.

“I realised it then: I had protected myself by creating a fantasy, a fantasy where I was completely at fault for everything that happened to me, and where if I felt upset it was only because I was overreacting. That an outsider approached me and told me what was happening was wrong shock me to my core.

“Then I had my second visitor: a colleague. He too was appalled. I truly believe that he did care for my welfare, but more importantly: he cared for the company’s reputation. He knew of or witnessed assaults committed by the same of equal or worse severity, but this was the first that had been in the full view of clients.

“He told me it would be dealt with unofficially, that I would have nothing to fear any more. I told him I wanted to make it official, and the climate changed: I was told in no uncertain terms that if I reported this or any other attack that I would have to give up my job, and that I would no longer be welcome. To those around me, I had become a troublemaker: a nasty woman.

“The next few weeks were some of the worst in my life. I was beginning to be ostracised by my colleagues and was constantly watched.

“Rumours were circulated with increased venom. And, to make matters worse, my food and water supply was controlled by my primary attacker.

 

A photo posted by SHEmazing! (@shemazingie) on

“I didn’t know how to leave. I didn’t want to admit to my family or friends what had happened to me or how long I had let it go on. In the end, it was the global downturn in the oil industry that got me out.

“As part of widespread cutbacks, my position was shed. And I doubt there has ever been anyone so happy to be fired.

“But I wasn’t yet free.

“Five months later I began to experience panic attacks and flashbacks which increased in frequency and severity. Whenever I was alone, I found myself reliving the worst moments of this period of my life. I turned to alcohol to try and stop these flashbacks from happening, and to self-harm when I couldn’t get them to stop. I was still so full of shame, and so reluctant to say what had happened to me was wrong. But I knew I needed help, and I sought help.

“Thanks to my really wonderful GP, I have been able to work through and recognise the traumas I experienced, and have felt like a perfectly normal, healthy human-being for the last four months.

However, this week, US president elect, Donald Trump, globally normalised what happened to me.

“And by supporting Donald Trump’s words and by dismissing his actions, people – particularly men – are allowing a deplorable culture where women are not safe and not equal to fester and grow.

“We are women. We are liars. We wanted it. We asked for it.

"I never wanted to be one of Trump’s ‘nasty' women, but the world I woke up to today gives me no choice. I felt too ashamed to tell my story before. But I know that that shame will be nothing compared to the shame I’d feel if I had to look at my three-year-old niece and know I had done nothing to try and make her world a better, safer place.

“From today I will be a nasty woman. I will be a nasty woman for her, and for every other little girl who might still have a chance of an equal future.

“I will be a nasty woman. In the hope they don’t have to.”

 

You can contact Women’s Aid 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via the charity’s national freephone helpline: 1800 341 900

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Social media has created a world that is more connected than ever before.

People can share life experiences with friends, family and communities across the globe.

Image result for woman on facebook

Despite the obvious advantages to social media, there are some risks that come with putting personal information on the Internet.

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Women’s Aid have teamed up with Facebook to offer tips on how you can maintain safety and control over your information online.

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"The first line of defence: select strong account security settings and notifications" is the first point made in the guide to staying safe on Facebook. 

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The second line of defence is outlined as taking "control of your privacy settings," as it is important to know who can see what you post. 

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The guide says that the third line of defence is defining your trusted community. 

If someone is abusing, harassing or threatening you, remember to take it one step at a time.

Image result for woman on facebook

Women's Aid have put together some further information on digital safety, which outlines your legal options with regards to online abuse, safety planning and how to report assaults. 

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If you have a concern you wish to discuss in detail, call the 24 hour National Free-phone Help line 1800 341 900.

Find out more on how Women’s Aid can help at womensaid.ie/services.

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In today's Ireland, dating abuse is something that's known but rarely discussed – a silence we at SHEmazing! want to shatter.

We're looking at real life examples of dating abuse, and how the victim fought to make their life safe again.

Here, we look at Cara's fight and how she overcame the control of her boyfriend:

Cara's Story:

I met Colm in our last year of college when we were both 21. We had the same circle of friends and often saw each other on nights out. One night we got talking and we had lots in common. He was great fun to be with and we hit it off straight away. I was really flattered by his attention and we starting going on dates and spending a lot of time together. He seemed to get me. He was such a charming guy and my friends all loved him.

 

After college, I started my new job in the bank. I was really excited to be out in the world and earning my own money. I started to make plans and thought about travelling with my best friend Sarah the following summer. It was around this time that I saw some subtle changes in Colm’s behaviour. He seemed really anxious and concerned about where I was going or who I was with particularly after work. He kept saying to me that "you can’t trust other people." He started to demand that I spend all of my spare time with him.

 

At first I thought that his concern was sweet but it quickly became suffocating. One time, when I wanted to go on a girls’ night out after work he would insist on meeting me first to escort me to the pub. I always said that there was no need but he pushed me to find out exactly who I would be with and if there would be other guys there. I told him lots of times that there was no need to be jealous. I was so embarrassed when Colm turned up as I left work saying that he just wanted to make sure I was safe. This happened every time I went out. He always seemed reluctant to leave me and I was beginning to find it embarrassing and harder to explain to my workmates. I tried to reassure him but he never listened.

 

When we were together Colm was very affectionate and he told me that I was his whole world and that we should be happy to spend all of our time only with each other. He said that I should be happy to give him all of my attention and started to hassle me about travelling with him instead of Sarah. He started to try to stop me from going out and soon his behaviour got more sinister. When I was out he started to send me text after text and he’d ring me constantly when I didn’t get back quickly enough. He’d guilt trip me when I rang him back, asking who I was with and saying how could I be having a good time without him. He demanded that I phone him when I arrived home. I was always trying to make him happy but it never seemed to work. I could never say or do the right thing.

 

I became overwhelmed with all of this. I felt Colm didn’t trust me. I didn’t like that he was keeping an eye on me and wanted to know my every move. I really became worried when Colm started to repeat conversations that I had with my friends. At first, when I asked him, he fobbed it off as me being paranoid or forgetful saying I had told him about the conversations. However, I became more suspicious when I had to go away with work and spent a number of days away from him. When I spoke to Colm he began to question me about information in text messages I had received and questioning me about who had I been texting. He denied that he had any opportunity to look at my phone because I was away and that he was just guessing.

 

That was the last straw. My gut instinct was that it was more than Colm’s guess work that allowed him to have information about my text messages. I felt more and more under his controlling, watchful eye and constant surveillance. I decided then and there that I wanted to end things with him. I told him that the relationship was over and that I didn’t want to see him again. He became very verbally abusive and threatened that if he couldn’t have me no one else would. He bombarded me with text messages and phone calls that night. I switched my phone off to try and get some sleep, but when I switched on my phone the following morning, I was bombarded again. It never stopped. I didn’t want to talk to Colm because I was frightened. I definitely didn’t want to see him again. His behaviour was too overwhelming and unpredictable and I was scared for my life. Even though he never hit me, his words and threats were like a knife. I didn’t know what I had done to deserve this and he kept telling me that it was all my fault.

 

When I went home to my parents’ house for the weekend I broke down and told my sister about Colm and what he was doing. She gave me a big hug and told me that she had been worried about because I hadn’t been in touch as much as usual. She had also gotten a few horrible messages on Facebook from Colm accusing her of breaking us up. She showed me the Women’s Aid website and she made me take their Helpline Freephone number in case I ever needed it. I also began to talk to my parents and friends about what was happening.

 

I didn’t phone Women’s Aid at first as I didn’t really know what to say. But some months later Colm began to stalk me as I went to and from work, letting me see him but not getting too close. He was still sending me threatening texts warning me not to see anyone. The texts were nasty and said that I would regret it if I started to see a new boyfriend. I didn’t feel safe and didn’t know what he was capable of doing. I started to hide away at home fobbing off invites from workmates. I was terrified of Colm now and I felt very vulnerable. When I’d least expect to see him – he was there. I became a shell of myself. I was alone, isolated from my friends and felt like I was going crazy. My life was dominated by my ex.

 

It was at that point that I decided to phone Women’s Aid. The woman I spoke to her was very supportive and understanding. She encouraged me to trust myself and she told me that his behaviour was not my fault. I soon saw that Colm was trying to control and have power over me and it had been working. Women’s Aid said that they would support me if I reported the incidents of stalking to the Gardaí, advising me to keep the records of his excessive text messages and phone calls. She told me that the Gardaí would be able to press charges under the ‘Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act’, and that Women’s Aid would support me through the court process.

 

The Helpline supported me around contacting my mobile phone provider for support on how I might protect myself and my information from my ex-boyfriend. I told them that he possibly had remote access to my mobile phone, as he had given me the mobile phone as a present. I was advised to get a new phone.

 

It felt good to be back in control of my own life and to feel supported. My friends and family have been brilliant too. I continue to get support from Women’s Aid, when I feel vulnerable. They support and listen to me about my safety and reassure me that I can contact the Gardaí at any time if I feel unsafe. Most importantly, they believe and listen to me. I don’t feel alone and life is getting better, step by step. I feel safe.

 

*Cara’s story is based on real accounts as told to the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline and Support Services. Specific details and circumstances have been changed in the interests of protecting identity and to preserve the confidential nature of Women's Aid services.

To raise awareness of the issue of dating abuse and to raise funds for Women's Aid, we have decided to host a music gig in The Sugar Club on Wednesday July 6, where Róisín O will headline, and more special guests to be announced. If you'd like to support us on the night, you can get your tickets here now.

If you have been affected by dating abuse and would like to share your story to help others please email us at hello@shemazing.ie.

Feature image: DWS4.ME

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