Many years ago in my early 20s I received a call around 3 am in the morning.
“Can you come see me,” my friend asked. Her voice. The time of night. I did not ask questions. “And Cindy,” she said “bring your camera.”
A few hours later I tried to keep it together, the tears and the sorrow I felt as I took in her bruised and battered body, one photograph at a time. I remember asking her to turn slightly towards the rising sun so I could get a better picture of the strangulation marks on her throat. I remember her body being taken over by uncontrollable shaking. The sound of her laboured breathing. Her hands ice cold. I remember the nausea in the pit of my own stomach, saw the deeply felt shame in her averted eyes. I struggled to comprehend that this stuff really happens and often I still do. It does happen. One in five women in Ireland experience domestic abuse. Women like you and me.
In the months that followed I learnt more and more about how subtle and how quick a relationship had turned – physically, emotionally and psychologically – abusive. And for the years to come her body knew it all, held it all in.
Our backs tell stories no book has the spine to carry.
I don’t know how much the photographs helped her later in court. Friendship and connection did. Holding her to let her know that she is safe. I knew this intuitively twenty years ago, I felt it was all I had to offer back then. Today I know how fundamental touch and connection are in the recovery from trauma, and domestic violence in particular. One day a week I volunteer as Shiatsu therapist in Aoibhneas Women’s & Children’s Refuge.
“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health;
safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.“
Bessel Van der Kolk, MD
What started as a once off Selfcare Day has turned into well over 240 hourly sessions of Shiatsu, Massage and Reflexology over the last 18 months. That and so much more.
For my ladies this hour often is a break. An hour of peace and quiet they do not find on their own. A place in which they can close their eyes and feel safe. An hour where they are being seen and heard.
I am truly grateful for any amount donated. Whether you wish to simply support me or sponsor a treatment in place of a gift to a loved one, all will be ackonowledged via personal email. Donations from €50 will also receive a sponsorship voucher to a postal address of your choice.
To touch can be to give life.
Need help? Support is available:
- Aoibhneas for Dublin’s Northside: 01 867 0701
- Soairse for Dublin’s Southside: 01-463 0000
- Women’s Aid: 1800 341 900
- Amen (for men): 046 902 3718