HAVING just entered her sixties, Wendy Moxley has decided to undertake a 612km trek from Malin Head to Mizen Head, while raising funds for Women’s Aid.
“I’m also a mad little woman!” says Wendy, aged 60, a mother of three, who is from Cork and now living in Wexford.
Why would she take on this challenge, that is seeing her negotiate the highways and by-ways of Ireland, sometimes getting lost along the way and giving up the comfort of her own home, living and sleeping in a camper van in the Great Outdoors?
“I told you I’m a little bit mad!” says Wendy laughing.
She’s also unemployed.
“I lost my job during Covid-19 and I became aware that I could do something worthwhile with my time, and do some good, do something positive during the pandemic.”
She’s also lucky.
“During the lockdown I was acutely aware that I was very lucky to be in a safe home with loving people around me and not in a confined space with an abusive partner,” says Wendy.
Wendy and her partner, Tom, got busy planning the route to walk the length of the country.
“I am a walker and I’ve walked long distances before,” says Wendy.
“I’ve never walked this far but I’m doing it for a great cause, Women’s Aid.”
The organisation supports vulnerable women in bad situations.
“You often hear of fund-raisers around the country for cancer and other illnesses, but you hear very little about Woman’s Aid and the valuable work that they do, offering support and refuge for women who have nowhere else to turn to,” says Wendy.
The mental health impact of domestic abuse is heightened due to restrictions, with some women expressing suicidal ideation.
“Getting awareness out there about the work Women’s Aid do is my goal, as well as raising much- needed funds for the charity.”
Wendy is also aware of the sobering thought that The Women’s Aid national freephone line has answered over 4,000 calls since March, a 39% increase on the same period last year. Its website has had over 72,000 visits, a 74% increase on the same time in 2019.
“As news of the massive increase of abuse in the home was broadcast recently due to lockdown, I felt I had to do something for Women’s Aid.”
Wendy is aware that more women have reported been strangled, raped, and beaten and are living under physical threat, like her mother tragically did.
“I grew up in a violent, abusive home,” says Wendy.
Although she and her four siblings weren’t the victims, they suffered the fall-out from the terrible air of violence that pervaded their home. They lived under a cloud, aware that there was a constant threat to their mother under their own roof.
“I wasn’t the victim,” says Wendy. “My mother was. I had an alcoholic father who was abusive. There was no way out for my mother.
“There was nowhere for her to go or for her to turn to. There was no-one to call. It was a case of shut up and put up.”
It was a case of Wendy’s mother being on her own against the world.
“The Church and the world were unprepared to listen to women who were domestically abused back then in the ’60s and ’70s,” says Wendy.
“Men had the authority and if a woman spoke out about domestic violence or abuse, she was accused of lying.
“Everything was kept under wraps and never talked about. Everything happened behind closed doors. And everyone turned a blind eye to what was going on behind closed doors.”
While Wendy wasn’t the victim of domestic violence, she was the victim of a scarred childhood.
“We could hear it all going on,” she recalls.
“Living in that tension was awful. We were living under a dark cloud.”
The darkness dissipated when Wendy’s father died.
“I was almost 10 years old when he died,” says Wendy.
“The damage had been done. I have clear memories of his abusive behaviour.”
There are constant reminders of those dark days.
“Whenever I hear news reports of domestic violence or of people appearing in court to tell their side of the story about their own abuse, it all comes back to me.”
As a child, Wendy could do nothing to help people like her mother who found themselves victims of domestic abuse. But she can now.
“I thought, I have to do something to support Women’s Aid.”
And she did.
“I decided to walk from Malin to Mizen Head to fundraise for Women’s Aid and to highlight the work that they do.
Wendy had a little help from her friend.
“Tom has the patience of a saint!” she says, laughing.
“I’ve got lost several times and he’s come to my rescue.”
Tom keeps Wendy on the straight and narrow.
“He tries to keep me off the main roads on the by-ways instead. He mapped it all out for me.”
Wendy means business.
“I do roughly about 34km a day,” she says.
“We sleep in the camper van at night. We’re pulling into the entrance of a wood right now as I’m talking to you. There are very few campsites in the middle of the country.” Wendy is being applauded along the way for her mammoth effort.
“People’s response has been great,” she says.
“They are very generous. People like my sister who works in the arts, who has no work now, donated generously.
“People’s kindness and support is wonderful.”
Wendy was aiming to raise €3,000 for Women’s Aid, but already the fund has gone to almost €7,000.
“It’s mad!” says Wendy — using that word again! — who worked as a health food nutritionalist.
She must know all the right things to eat in order to keep her energy levels up then?
“Right now, I’m enjoying a dirty big Magnum!” says Wendy.
She has no after-effects.
“And I’ve no injuries either,” says the sprightly 60 year old.
“Except my hips are a bit stiff in the mornings when I get up.”
Wendy, approaching the finish line, has her goal in sight.
“Today, Women’s Aid provides a safe haven for women in an abusive situation,” she says.
“The charity is in need of funds to continue its vital work.
“They listen to women who are abused and they believe the victims. And they help them.”
Wendy, accomplishing her goal, realises she will help vulnerable women everywhere.
“Women’s Aid is a wonderful charity that supports women through its 24 hour helpline, one-to-one support, court appearance support, hosing support, to mention just some of what they do,” says Wendy.
“Women’s Aid has been listening, believing and supporting women since 1974 and continues to campaign for law reform and public awareness of domestic violence.”
There is a method to Wendy’s madness. She has done something very worthwhile.
“I am glad to be able to support such a worthy cause.”
HOW TO DONATE
How to donate to Wendy’s cause: See Head to Head for Women’s Aid on GoFundMe.ie
WHERE TO SEEK SUPPORT
Women’s Aid is a leading national organisation that has been working in Ireland to stop domestic violence against women and children since 1974.
The Women’s Aid national freephone helpline is the only free, national, domestic violence helpline with specialised trained staff, covering 170 languages for callers needing interpretation services.
Call the Women’s Aid 24 hour national freephone helpline on 1800 341-900 Services for male victims of domestic and sexual abuse are available at stillhere.ie