We are all in this together. It was the line that kept us all going through the crisis lockdown months of Covid-19. We all knew that if we were to protect the most vulnerable in our communities and in our families we had to stay at home, stay away from our friends and loved ones and yet stay connected and together as a nation and as communities in social solidarity.
While most of us could retreat safely into our homes as places of sanctuary and respite from the virus that was out there, for women and children now facing the horrendous prospect of being locked down with an abuser, home was anything but a safe haven.
The Shadow Pandemic
On the Ryan Tubridy Show, our Co-CEO Sharon O’Halloran said that she cried when she heard the news about Covid-19 and the immediate plans for lockdown. She knew from the experience of other countries already under lockdown that there was also a shadow pandemic on the horizon – the pandemic of domestic violence and abuse.
From the first announcement of lockdown on March 12th, Safe Ireland’s work switched immediately to ensuring that the 39 Safe Ireland member services were fully supported to stay open and to do everything they could, often under testing circumstances, and with gross under-resourcing, to protect and help women to stay safe or escape abuse and violence in their homes.
Then, something quite extraordinary began to happen.
While isolation and lockdown was not easy for most of us, we collectively began to see and understand the serious dangers that isolation and containment posed for women and children living with controlling tyrants and abusers.
An Amazing Community Response
At Safe Ireland, we had already opened a Covid-19 Emergency Fund to help provide urgent funding directly to women and children through our member services.
Almost immediately, our fund was boosted by extremely generous donations from the Bank of Ireland, through the ongoing support of the Community Foundation for Ireland, and the Ireland Funds. This was the start of a vital and vibrant community response to the issue of domestic violence that we had really never seen before.
Over subsequent weeks, individuals, theatre companies and artists were holding the most creative and imaginative events to, not just fundraise for Safe Ireland, but to raise awareness about the issue.
Singers like Emma Langford and Glen Hansard dedicated funds from stellar performances to the Safe Ireland Covid-19 Emergency Fund. Noirin Lynch, wrote and dedicated a song to Safe Ireland. Drew Maitland and David Keogan organised Couch Eile, a pop up live music streaming event. The Fregoli Theatre Company staged a unique, thought-provoking performance with all donations going to the fund. Criti-call, a collaboration of professional, voluntary and community groups, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Iveagh Trust, Scouts, Serve the City, An Garda Síochána and others came together to provide essential supports and materials to our services in Dublin and across many other counties.
We began to get exciting inklings about a collaboration by 40 of Ireland’s top female artists, led by the amazing Ruth Anne Cunningham, with the support of MCD, to perform The Cranberries’ (And Delores O’Riordan’s) Dreams to raise money for Safe Ireland. We all now know the phenomenal success that that amazing performance by Irish Women in Harmony has been – it not just gave us a fantastic rendition of a favourite song, it brought the issue of domestic violence into homes, through radios, laptops, and mobile phones throughout the country and raised over €215,000 to be used directly for women and children. It also spun off the best t-shirts we have ever worn with the Beanantee’s ‘Don’t Mess with Mná’ collection.
We have also had amazing corporate support from companies like Airbnb, Boots Ireland, Total Health, Twitter, Revolut and Tesco. In addition to vital in-kind support, they have all worked with us to ensure that the critical message reaches survivors that professional support is available for them, in their own communities. We look forward to furthering these partnerships as we continue to support women and children in a new post-Covid world.
There are many others who have supported us – not least the thousands of individuals who donated through the Dreams campaign and many others.
We have been humbled by your generosity and emboldened by your solidarity, understanding and empathy with women and children living in unsafe homes.
You have shown that, we are indeed, all in this together.