Domestic violence campaigner to address major UK conference

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Domestic violence campaigner to address major UK conference
Domestic violence campaigner to address major UK conference

An Irish domestic violence campaigner who was emotionally and physically abused from the age of eight is to make an address at a major conference on the issue in the UK.

Ainie Grainger, 21, will be part of a panel of speakers at Cambridge University to challenge the assumptions about who is affected by domestic violence.

Ms Grainger and her mother Priscilla have helped to lead the campaign to have domestic violence made a crime in Ireland.

Priscilla suffered more than a decade of harrowing abuse before she and Ainie set up Stop Domestic Violence in Ireland (SDVII), a voluntary organisation to help women and men who find themselves trapped in violent relationships, in 2014.

It’s very tough for people to reach out – we have this stigma in Ireland where we brush it under the carpet and say things like you have to get on with it and that’s where it has to stop

Ainie was just 14 at the time.

She said that when the abuse started she did not know what it was and believed it was part of a normal childhood.

“I didn’t know what was going on, I was totally oblivious to it all,” Ainie said.

“When he used to pick me up from school he would say he’s going to the shop but it would be the bookies and he could be gone for over an hour to two hours while I would be waiting inside the locked car.

“I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know what the words domestic violence meant.

“I didn’t know if it was ever going to end. I didn’t recognise it until I was about 13.

Ainie Grainger set up Stop Domestic Violence in Ireland (Ainie Grainger/PA)
Ainie Grainger set up Stop Domestic Violence in Ireland (Ainie Grainger/PA)

“The abuse was mental and physical.”

Ainie and her mother now work with a team of domestic violence survivors who provide vital and practical assistance to help victims plan their exit from abusive relationships.

SDVII provides practical and emotional support to survivors.

They have an in-house solicitor to provide expert legal advice, free counselling, food, clothes and shelter.

On Monday she will address the special conference on domestic violence.

Ainie will appear on a stage where previous speakers include businessman Bill Gates, politician Emily Thornberry and singer Dua Lipa.

She will appear with speakers from Hestia, an organisation which supports women and children in crisis, and Elizabeth Woocraft, a former barrister who helped advise on the 1976 Matrimonial and Domestic Abuse Bill.

Charlie Flanagan established an independent research on femicide and domestic homicide (Brian Lawless/PA)
Charlie Flanagan established an independent research on femicide and domestic homicide (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I don’t know what to expect because I’ve seen the room where I will be speaking in and it’s massive,” Ainie added.

“It’s just very different from what I would normally do because I’ve never been outside Ireland to speak on a stage and this is the first achievement outside home.”

Ainie, who works as a travel agent in Dublin, uses innovative campaigning and social media to help teenagers who are victims of domestic abuse.

She uses Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to speak to young people.

“I have my own personal account on Instagram and the reason why I haven’t made a support page is because it’s easier for the people who are abusing to see that someone is following a domestic violence page,” she said.

“Each week I speak on a different topic about it.

“It’s very tough for people to reach out – we have this stigma in Ireland where we brush it under the carpet and say things like you have to get on with it and that’s where it has to stop.

“We need to be able to say enough is enough and not be embarrassed about it.”

Last year, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan established an independent research on femicide and domestic homicide.

However, SDVII say women will continue to be abused and murdered unless the law is changed.

Ainie added: “The time for talking is through – it seems crazy in this day and age that domestic violence is still not recognised as a criminal offence. What kind of message does this send out?

“How many more women must be beaten, abused and murdered before the authorities take the steps that are needed to protect them from their abusers?”

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