‘Inequality exists when you treat unequal things equally’ domestic abuse workers warn

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More needs to be done to challenge the inequalities that women and girls face in society, domestic abuse workers have cautioned.

The call was made by charities dealing with domestic abuse in Galway, following widespread outrage at the murder of 23-year-old school teacher Ashling Murphy.

There has been a public outcry for more to be done to prevent male violence against women following the murder of the young woman from Tullamore.

“But this is not us vs them [men].” said head of COPE Galway’s domestic abuse service, Dr Carol Baumann.”

“This is not male vs female. This is not a women’s issue, it is a societal issue, and we have to be cognisant of that in our conversations.” she said.

Ms Murphy was attacked and killed whilst out running in the afternoon of January 12.  

Dr Baumann said that “it’s a personal tragedy first and foremost, that her family and friends will have to live with long after we are done talking and writing about it,”

“No good comes out of the death of a young woman. But what has happened in this situation is that people have talked about it, people have come out to attend vigils, people have donated money to organisations like us.”

COPE Galway’s domestic abuse service staff were encouraged by how quickly the public made the connection between the random assault on a path in the middle of the day, and intimate partner abuse.

“I don’t think we have seen that connection made as quickly and that was heartening because that is the connection that is there, and we don’t always see it.” Dr Baumann said. The organisation had not received a notable increase in calls following the tragic event.

“But what about men who experience abuse by women?” is a question that Dr Carol Baumann said she is frequently asked.

 “This is not a competition,”

“Violence against men is no more acceptable. It is not acceptable. Violence, abuse, control, coercion has no place in interpersonal relationships, irrespective of gender, I give out the number for Men’s Aid and encourage any man who is in that situation to get the help that he needs,” she said.

Casual messages of inequality can begin as children and may be perceived as harmless but have the power to make a lifetime impression.  

“When you were a little girl and a boy on the street might hit you and an adult might say ‘he’s only doing that because he likes you’, what are we telling little girls? That it’s okay for him to hit you because he likes you?”

“30 years later and she’s in our refuge and telling me ‘he hits me because he loves me’” Dr Baumann said.

In Eyre Square, Galway, 24 hours after the murder took place, a large crowd gathered to pay their respects at a candlelit vigil for the victim.

Photo by SIN

Flowers and photographs of Ashling Murphy were displayed, alongside posters which read “she was going for a run” and “enough is enough”.

After a minute of reflective silence, NUI Galway Student Union President Róisín Nic Lochlainn shared her condolences with the Murphy family and Ashling’s friends. Addressing the crowd, she said that she was “absolutely devastated and exhausted,”

“I don’t think there is any more that we as women can do, there is no right way to not get assaulted” Ms Nic Lochlainn said before inviting attendees to say a few words if they wished to.

A man who was in attendance with his daughter said, “women have been changing constantly to adapt to this world. The women don’t have to change, we do.”

Katie, a NUI Galway student, said that what had happened was “a completely senseless act of violence and profoundly sad,” Adding, “seeing men here has helped me.”

Dr Baumann said she was glad to see men participating in the outpouring of grief and that they should be welcomed.

“It’s a given that violence against men happens, it’s a given that violence against men is unacceptable, it’s a given that not every man does it,”

“Why, when hundreds of women die, at the hands of their partners, do people feel the need to say, ‘oh yes, but women beat men’, why?” she said.

The head of COPE Galway’s domestic abuse services said that going forward she would like to see people “individually and collectively owning the problem and not believing that it’s someone else’s problem,”.

Dr Baumann said that the female experience of violence is political, “its roots exist within the subtle messaging we give about women not being equal to men, that’s what sows the seeds of entitlement, and entitlement leads to abuse”.

“It’s easy to say it was all about the person who did what they did [when something tragic occurs] which at the end of the day is true,”

“But why did he think he could do it?” she said.

Walking the Salthill Promenade had not felt like an act of defiance before, but it has in the days since.

COPE Galway domestic abuse service and refuge can be reached 24 hours a day on 091 565 985.

If you would like to donate to COPE Galway, you can do so at https://www.copegalway.ie/donate/ 

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