Words by Abi Scaife
“We're just an ordinary mother and daughter. We just want to raise awareness worldwide that domestic violence is a no-no.”
Domestic violence affects one in five adults in the UK. It is not rare, and it is not something that can be ignored.
Priscilla and Ainie Grainger, a mother and daughter, survived domestic violence at the hands of Priscilla’s now ex-partner. Priscilla was able to escape, bringing her daughter, Ainie with her, and since then they have dedicated their lives to helping others do the same.
“We realised when we got out of our situation that there was nothing there for anybody. We set up Stop Domestic Violence, and then we wrote the book,” says Priscilla. “What we're doing now is we're helping victims to become survivors.”
Currently, the issue of domestic violence is a troublesome one in Ireland - there is a need to ‘prove’ that you have been abused, and once you’ve gone through that stressful and traumatic process, there’s no guarantee anything will be done this side of a year. That’s not exactly encouraging when, for many, this is a life-or-death situation.
“Nothing is put in place - it can take up to three years here in Ireland,” explains Priscilla. “If I went to the Garda Station, and I had a bruise on me and said that I had been beaten by my partner - and they believed me - you make your statement and then the decision is made whether there's enough evidence to bring charges.”
Today, Priscilla and Ainie help other people - not just women - escape domestic violence through their Facebook page Stop Domestic Violence Ireland. Often, they receive messages from people in the same position that Priscilla used to be in - abused by their partner and with no idea what their options are, or even if they’re ready to take them.
“There’s no other mother and daughter team that are able to get out there, give these men and women a hug when they need us, put food on their table and say ‘it's going to be okay’,” says Priscilla. “It will be okay, it's going to take time, you're gonna struggle financially but we're going to help you. You're not going to be on your own.”
After contacting Priscilla and Ainie, the mother and daughter duo provide a listening ear - that’s all many people want in the beginning, Priscilla acknowledges.
“Nine times out of 10 most people just want to talk first and they just want to cry,” says Priscilla. “They want to cry. They want to rant, they want to shout and that's what we take. We take that where nobody else [does] - we are there, we’re their safety net. They can offload on us.”
After that, if they are ready, Priscilla and Ainie will give them advice on how to go about leaving the relationship. Priscilla says she advises writing a diary, building up evidence, and sending the pages to a trusted friend or relative - or she will take them, if there’s nobody else.
They even guide victims through the court system, helping them to contact solicitors and go to the Garda, and will keep in contact until that person is finally free. From meeting with victims, talking them through what they need to escape, and even keeping a cache of gifts in their garage for those who have no money for their child’s Christmas gifts, their love for these survivors knows no bounds.
Priscilla and Ainie are continuing to campaign for Ireland to put better laws, and better protections against domestic violence, into place. Unlike the UK, there is no Clare’s Law - or anything comparable - meaning that many people are stuck in an abusive relationship because they believe there is no way out.
“Victims become objects to the abusers. You're not a human being, you're not a person. You're just an object, be it for sex, be it for punching, be it to abuse emotionally or verbally,” explains Priscilla. “You become an object - and if they get bored with you, they trade you in and then you have nowhere to go, so you've got to put up with them. And that's the danger zone.”
The pair also use their own story to inspire others - to show that there is a way out, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Before setting up Stop Domestic Violence Ireland, Priscilla and Ainie wrote about their experience in a book, Safe, with the help of writer Shane Doran.
“The front cover of the book was a picture taken by my late dad,” says Priscilla. “We got the sketch done … and it was it was just ideal because it was perfect to show that as young as Ainie was, I was still holding on to her hands … and eventually, we were able to get away.”
When Smiley News asked if it was difficult for Priscilla and Ainie to be so engaged with other victims of domestic violence - if it was triggering for them - Priscilla smiled.
“Sometimes it does - but we both still go to counselling - but you see, for us, it's not anymore. Because we know we suffered so badly that this is like a spiritual healing process that we're going through,” she explains. “Because every time you help somebody and you see somebody smiling, or you see a child, open a present and they smile … that's not trauma. That's just a huge satisfaction [that] I've been able to turn something so negative into something so positive.”
To support Priscilla and Ainie and find more information on how to leave an abusive relationship, visit their Facebook page here. To read about Priscilla and Ainie’s journey in Safe, visit the website here.
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
Solace Women’s Aid. Solace Women's Aid exists to end the harm done through violence against women and girls. Learn more here.
Refuge. This charity runs life-saving services, including a 24/7 Helpline and 44 refuges, for women and their children affected by domestic abuse. Support them here.
Hestia Life Beyond Crisis. Hestia provides domestic abuse support services in London and the south east, including domestic abuse refuges and community-based support. Find out more.