BY KERRIE FLOOD

Chronic disappointment is a corrosive thing. When we endure disappointment for prolonged periods of time it can really change how we view everything within and around us. We can steel ourselves, ready ourselves to be let down, lowering our expectations. More than lowering our expectations, it lowers our aspirations. It erodes that belief that we can do anything and sometimes, in that vacuum and pit of disappointment and nothingness, we can just stop trying. Surrender and give up and believe in our core that we are powerless to create any kind of change. I have to confess, I have surrendered to that nothingness at times over the last three years. I have found myself and my colleagues really searching and asking ourselves and each other, what are we doing? Are we making any difference? We are just swimming against the tide.

When there is nowhere to go. Noone to talk to. No Minister to Lobby.

No MLA to talk to. No budget. No resources. No expectation of better. Where do you go?

I am very lucky, I didn’t go anywhere alone.

I work with some of the most steadfast women anyone could encounter. And so, when no one was listening, when there was nowhere to go and no one to talk to, together we went around the world.

We went around the world for the women and children who were swimming against a more ferocious tide than a political vacuum. A tidal wave of Domestic and Sexual Violence. intimate terror that even after 10 years I find difficult to articulate.

We didn’t just go around the world. We travelled 111,189 miles. That is four and a half journeys around the world in the three years while faced with political nothingness. We went there with 1,385 women and children from Fermanagh and we visited them 8,706 times.

Those numbers shake me to my core. They fill me with deep sadness because I know the names, the faces and the stories behind them. Stories of pain, loss, devastation, terror and horror. Stories of perseverance, strength and hope.

In three years I have watched a team of women who I admire deeply become upset that they couldn’t do more, rage that resources and services are retreating, cry because they cannot yet support a woman or child who desperately needs our help, become irate at what can sometimes feel like chronic inaction.

On average, two women a week are killed in the UK by a current or former male intimate partner. And yet in Northern Ireland, while women were dying and services were struggling, we had zero Domestic Homicide Reviews. Despite lots of “almosts”, we do not have Domestic Violence Legislation, we do not have any specific Stalking legislation. We had nowhere to go and so we went to work ourselves. We went around the world four and half times. While resources were cut, while funding became scarce, we went to work.

We held women and their children in our arms, in our refuges and in our support services. We listened and responded and walked with them. We empowered them and helped them to be safe. We attended court, case conferences, PSNI stations. We held conferences and fundraised and called others to action. We diversified our funding streams, we trained professionals, we educated children in your schools and we did it all on a shoe string budget against a backdrop of nothing.

If we went around the world four and a half times in the face of nothingness and emptiness, where will we go now that power sharing has been restored? Disappointment can be corrosive but taking stock of what you have been able to do in the face of adversity can be powerful. Women and children deserve to be safe in their homes and so we will go to work. Again.

Kerrie Flood is a Development Manager at Women’s Aid.