SAFE Ireland Summit‘It is not right that somebody hurts you. It is not right that somebody abuses you. It is not your fault.’

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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Maria Dempsey’s story, as told this morning to Sean O’Rourke on the Today programme, was difficult listening at times. Difficult, but essential and compelling, if you want to understand truly the devastating fallout of domestic violence on the families of victims.

Maria Dempsey is the mother of Alicia Brough, who was murdered by John Geary in Limerick in 2010. Alicia had been helping a friend, Sarah Hines, the former partner of John Geary, who was the father of her five-month-old daughter, Amy.

Angry and in a rage at the fact that she had left him, John Geary repeatedly stabbed Sarah Hines, their daughter, Amy, as well as Amy’s three-year-old brother, Reece, and finally, Alicia Brough, who had arrived at the scene.

It was a horrific crime, for which John Geary was convicted in 2013. But, according to Maria, it was accompanied by the most intimate of newspaper and media coverage where some of the most gruesome details of the crime were publicised.

“For a long time, I felt like I had been stripped, naked. My family felt naked. It’s important we talk about these things. But sometimes the way people talk about violence is in such a horrific way…. Being stabbed 16 times is enough. You don’t need to know what weapon it was done with.”

There was, and is, way too much detailed information about the death of her daughter in the public domain, according to Maria Dempsey. And even now, there are other children living with the consequences.

“One of my children goes to high school. A simple lesson they had was to Google their own name. He is there, in class, Google searching his name. And what comes up? Horrific language…. ‘Slaughter’. ‘Bloodbath’. He was 14 years old.”

In the months and years following her daughter’s murder, Maria was spoken to by journalists and, when asked the names of the rest of her children and family, divulged them. Little did she know these would become part of the story, embedded into the coverage of the crime.

Alicia Brough’s murder happened six years ago, but it was three years later before the family were able to start to grieve, following the conviction of John Geary.

Next week, Maria Dempsey, Alicia’s mother, will speak at a summit organised by Safe Ireland, the national agency working at eradicating domestic violence. The Safe Ireland Summit takes place in the Mansion House in Dublin on Monday, November 14th, and Tuesday, November 15th.

Also in the Today studio with Sean O’Rourke was Rhona O’Mahony, Master of the National Maternity Hospital.

Rhona spoke about the disturbing issue of violence against women during pregnancy, which is extremely prevalent. Indeed, where domestic violence is a feature of relationship, studies show it tends to increase during pregnancy, an extremely frightening prospect.

According to Rhona, so much domestic abuse still goes unreported, and one of the key objectives of Safe Ireland is to make it easy for women to disclose episodes of violence, whether to a friend, a member of the family, or a professional.

“It is not right that somebody hurts you. It is not right that somebody abuses you. It is not your fault.”

Also joining the conversation was a former senior adviser to United States Vice President, Joe Biden. Lynn Rosenthal was the first formal White House adviser on violence against women and she outlined how, since the Violence against Women Act passed 20 years ago, the prevalence of domestic violence has decreased.

But to what extent has the progress which has been achieved in combating sexual assault, violence against women and misogyny been damaged by the election of Donald Trump, particularly given his comments writing about sexual assault?

“The election results are a kick in the gut for all of us who care about women and families. Frankly, we’re still in shock and trying to figure out what it all means. I’m not very hopeful. But it’s only been a day.”

That said, according to Lynn Rosenthal, the election is the last gasp of white supremacy, with its attendant problems of racism, homophobia and misogyny.

The Safe Ireland Summit takes place on Monday and Tuesday of next week. The organisation does not provide direct support services to women experiencing domestic violence. However, there are many organisations providing such services, including Women’s Aid, whose national freephone number is 1800 341900.

To listen to the full interview, click here.


Photo Credit: Getty Images

© The Listener 2016

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