Domestic violence service provider, Safe Ireland, will launch a creative campaign on Nollaig na mBán to shine a light on the resilience and strength of women.

Safe Ireland, the national agency working with 39 domestic violence services across the country, has partnered with the Herstory movement and Film Director Marion Bergin to launch a powerful new campaign this Nollaig na mBán (Women’s Little Christmas), Jan 6, 2021.

The campaign features a first in Ireland – a one-minute film by Marion Bergin that depicts with the chilling impact the shrinking world of a woman and child living with coercive control and abuse.

The darkness of the film is contrasted with a standout Herstory light show, illuminating landmark buildings like the GPO and Christchurch Cathedral with stunning images that celebrate the archetypal hopes, diversity, strength, resilience, and autonomy of women in Ireland today. Other buildings being lit up are the former Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott Street and an ordinary domestic house to symbolize the hurt that happens in our community.

The light show features the spectacular photographs of award-winning photographer Ellen McDermott, a dynamic new photographic series by photographer Myriam Riand and conceptual artist Áine O’ Brien and the powerful new Safe Ireland advert created by Marion Bergin.  The campaign has been made possible with funding from The Community Foundation for Ireland and Irish Women in Harmony.

Mother and child

The campaign has a strong Christmas connection even though it marks the end of the holiday. At the center of Christmas festivities are a mother and child, yet as a society, we are failing thousands of women and children who live with coercive control and domestic abuse every day. Christmas is a highly stressful time for those living with an abuser and new lockdown restrictions add to concerns that women and children may be further entrapped for an extended period of time.  

Still from Marion Bergin's short film for Safe Ireland.

Still from Marion Bergin's short film for Safe Ireland.

 “We know from our services that Christmas has been extremely busy already and they are now facing into a January dealing with the impact of the double crisis of the holiday and this new period of strict lockdown,” said Safe Ireland CEO Mary McDermott. 

“Nollaig na mBán celebrates women and, traditionally, offers a day of rest to them, a day where they are acknowledged and served. Our message is that every woman and child deserves to be safe from coercion and control in 2021. If you or someone you know is living with control and abuse, staff in domestic abuse services across the country are highly trained and experienced. Make contact, learn about coercive control. Domestic violence staff are specialists. They will hear you and they will support you.” 

McDermott also said that a key objective with the Nollaig na mBán campaign is to raise awareness, clarity, and courage in our communities so that as a society we can deliver the personal and social transformations needed to prevent domestic violence and to respond adequately to the complex needs of survivors.

“We made really significant strides in 2020 in raising public, personal and political consciousness about the dangers for women and children trapped with abusers through the pandemic,” she said. “With continued political, administrative, and public support, we can do even more to challenge fatalism about domestic abuse and coercive control in our communities. We can prevent it, and where it occurs, provide the wrap-around infrastructure, from courts to housing and health, that women and children need when they reach out for support and protection.”

Filmmaker Marion Bergin, who created their new one-minute advert said “My general aim as a film-maker is to examine the foundations of society, our shared human experience, and tell stories from a place of compassion.

"In researching the film I read countless harrowing stories of women who found themselves in a position of coercive control.  A common thread was the shame in stepping forward to get help. Coercive control is a sinister and deeply psychological form of abuse that doesn’t leave a mark, stripping away confidence and making the abused doubt themselves.

"We’ve begun to tackle mental health as a society and now it’s time to turn our attention to domestic abuse, taking the issue out of the shadows and supporting those suffering to get help and get safe. It’s been an honor to work with such powerful female leaders on a project that I hope will continue our journey to make Ireland a safer and more accepting place for everyone.”

Herstory light show

Melanie Lynch, Founder and CEO of the Herstory movement, said: “This Herstory light show is specially created to empower women with the confidence and courage to leave your abuser and reclaim your sovereignty. You deserve to have a happy, harmonious future. You have the support of Safe Ireland’s services and Mná na hÉireann, the women of Ireland. We are with you every step of the way. 

Ellen McDermott, Photographer said: “I’ve contributed my work to the Safe Ireland project because being the mother of four daughters myself my greatest wish for them is to be treated and to treat others in return with integrity, compassion, and equanimity not only in the good times but in the bad times too. We are who we are when nobody is watching and my work explores this theme."

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