Not Happily Ever After Case Study

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Deirdre’s Story

“There have been a couple of occasions over the last few months when I wasn’t in the humour for making love, but felt I should. Sure that’s just the way it is sometimes between couples, isn’t it?” 

Deirdre*

When she called the Rape Crisis Centre National 24-Hour Helpline on1800 77 8888, Deirdre‘s opening words were “Maybe I should not even be bothering you with this”. The telephone counsellor encouraged her to speak a little about what brought her to make the call in the first place. What followed was a snapshot of a young woman’s life in the Ireland of today.

Deirdre is a mother to 2 young boys, a three-year-old and a 3-month-old baby. The second little fella was a bit of a surprise.His arrival means there is no hope of her looking for work; they can hardly pay the rent, let alone afford childcare. Her partner’s hours have been cut twice in the last 18months. He gets irritable whenever she mentions their need to apply for extra financial support. She goes on to talk about the possibility of them being eligible for help with the rent or medical cards. For a brief moment, the telephone counsellor wonders if she should refer her on to an agency that could provide more practical support.

Her subsequent sentences, however, confirm she’s on to one of the two National Helplines that can provide her with help and support. She talks about how difficult their relationship has become. It is so centred on money or the lack of it. She feels he blames her for getting pregnant. If they only had the one maybe her mum would have continued to mind their older son and she could be out there working too, but her mum says she is not able to mind them both. His job and their deteriorating financial situation make him angry all the time. There have been a couple of occasions within the last couple of months where she had not been in the humour for making love but felt she should. Sure that’s just the way it is sometimes between couples isn’t it?

That rhetorical question hangs there for a moment or two before she goes on to speak about the night he came home having been told for the second time that his hours were to be cut and he forced her to have sex. She was annoyed with him for being so late home, for not contacting her with news that affected the whole family, for being so loud and drunk that he woke the baby, and then he had the cheek to want to have sex.

Afterwards she just lay there wondering how the man she loved could treat her so despicably no matter how annoyed, angry, or frustrated he was feeling. She could not look or speak to him the next day and when she did, what she wanted to say came out the wrong way. He told her to stop being so hysterical. It was the following day that the bruises around her neck where he choked her and the bruises and bite marks on her breasts and inside legs were visible. When she tried to speak of what had happened that night he accused her of being neurotic, telling her “Sure that’s what happens when you want it rough”.

As the weeks passed and the evidence of that night came and went, she stopped bringing it up. Things went back to the way they were, more or less.  By the end of the call she admitted to the telephone counsellor that if a friend described to her what she herself had endured that night, she would have been the first to say “Get out of there and report him for rape”. But in reality who would believe her? He is her partner. What about the boys, they need a dad? How would she cope alone?

The telephone counsellor spoke to her about the help and support agencies such as the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and Women’s Aid could offer, but her sense was this young woman just needed to be listened to with understanding and not judged for her decision to stay with the family and her husband for now.

*Deirdre’s story is based on real accounts as told to the Rape Crisis Centre’s National 24-Hour Helpline 1800 77 8888.  Specific details and circumstances have been changed in the interests of protecting identity and to preserve the confidential nature of our services.