Funding for domestic and sexual abuse services inadequate

An article I co-wrote for the Irish Examiner

The demand is huge and growing, a result of both high levels of violence and increased awareness. In 2015, 9,172 women and 3,383 children received support from a domestic violence service, and, in 2014, 18,926 calls were made to Rape Crisis Centre helplines, while 1,913 people participated in counselling and support.

These people represent a minority of survivors: Most people who experience gender-based violence do not report it. Widespread availability of support services would reduce not only untold suffering for survivors, but also for their children.



Transcribing story upon story.

Different voices. Their pace. IDI_01 is steady, deliberate. Her tale is chilling in its slow precision. IDI_A1 spills one idea over another – five narratives bursting to tell themselves at once. IDI_C1 is broken. It takes her ages and ages to move beyond bureaucracy to reach into her own trauma. When she discusses the refugee experience, it’s a logistical tale, and she talks in clear detailed paragraphs. When she discusses the war it all shatters. “Bad things happen. Only God know”, she says.

I work in the space between their recorded voices and the Word document I transcribe. They leave, mostly lighter for having told it. I don’t think they want to analyse their words. For the most part, they want to be free of them, free of the words and of what they contain.

Of course that leaves the weight somewhere else. Where? On me? I switch off my computer and read my kids a story – those kids contain worlds and they consume me, no space for anything else. Is it in my computer, all that weight? Have to get it out of there. That confused substance, made of trauma, grief, self-loathing. Grit. Love. It needs to go somewhere.

First though, I need to catch it. Squeeze it out of the voice recorder, but gently. Tease it out.

Since starting this PhD, I have longed for an illustrator in my life. All the words I know have been used too many times. Even all the phrases. Nothing is adequate to this substance – maybe pictures are.

Hackneyed. Tired. Just type. Just keep typing.


Occasional musings on Doing This PhD.

I worked for 10 years in the NGO sector. I didn’t quite fit – but then, if you spend your whole life looking for the space that’s exactly you-shaped, that’ll be a pretty unsatisfying life. I fit well enough. I learned a huge amount, and it formed my values and my friendships. I’m glad of it.

About 7 or 8 years in though, on the back of two (paid) internships and a year’s (paid) maternity leave, I realised that I had a passion and possibly a flair for research, and that’s how I ended up here. Doing This PhD.

I’m researching the impact of violence against women on African women living in Ireland. Important stuff, right? My theoretical lens (you have to have one of those) is stigma and shame. It’s a good theoretical lens, academically robust, and currently remarkably popular. I find there’s a groove, a community of people seized by this very subject, perhaps even a space where I can fit. And yet –

Early on in my data collection, it seems to me that stigma and shame are not the things that are crippling my research participants. Exclusion is; and in particular, for those still in the asylum process, Direct Provision. One woman complains: “It is many years I have been in This Kilkenny, and still I have no friends, no money.” Poverty is there too.

I don’t want to be too Mazlovian here, but I do think there’s a responsibility among researchers to recognise priorities. I’m delving into a tiny nook of people’s experience, and within that nook, encountering worlds. That’s how these things are supposed to work. But it’s my job to contextualise it too. I’m reminded of discussions about urban regeneration, the promise of good architectural design in deprived neighbourhoods (in this case, the design in question involves passive surveillance; provision of overlooked public spaces; permeability – I learned all the buzz words a long time ago). It’s good stuff, well researched and valid. But the truth is that bad design isn’t a significant driver of anti social behaviour and criminality. Poverty is. If you’re really seized of the importance of addressing deprivation in inner cities, even if you’re an architect expert in social design (if that’s a thing), you need to demand interventions that reduce poverty and offer opportunities and dignity to the residents.

Similarly, as I deepen my expertise on the role of stigma and gendered shame in the lives of migrants, I can’t be deaf to what they’re telling me. Which is that they can move past their experiences of violence, if they’re allowed to. If they can get out of the institutions that we have put them into.