Christmas is a time of intimidation, cruelty, and “sudden flashes of violence” for many women, according to a leading domestic violence support agency.
Women’s Aid also said children are used as “pawns” by abusive men during what should be a time of joy for them and their mothers.
It said it had already received calls saying the extra stress of Christmas was triggering more frequent and more severe domestic abuse.
However, it urged women in such situations to make contact via its 24-hour helpline and asked the public for donations.
Margaret Martin, the director of Woman’s Aid, said: “For most of us, Christmas is a time for celebration and for making happy memories. It is about reconnecting with friends and family and above all taking time out to relax at home.
“But for many women contacting us recently, the reality of Christmas is far from what it should be. It is a time of hurt, fear, intimidation, intentional cruelty and sudden flashes of violence directed at them and their children.”
She said women ringing Women’s Aid’s helpline were also disclosing that children were being directly abused and were witnessing the abuse at home.
She said that often the abusive man deliberately targeted the children and their hopes for Christmas in order to hurt them and their mother. She added that abuse by ex-partners was also very prevalent during the festive period.
“Abusive men can use the holidays to threaten the well-being of children, using them as pawns in control and intimidation during what should be a time of joy.
“Just because it is the festive season, it doesn’t mean that physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse goes away.
“Many women will work very hard to maintain the status quo, to keep some semblance of normality for their children.
“It is often in the aftermath of December 25 that we receive more calls from women, who are living in fear of assault or having taking steps to leave the relationship, suddenly find themselves and their children homeless and without means.”
Ms Martin said the helpline received, on average, 47 calls each day.
“We hear from women throughout the year who face a constant threat to their physical and emotional well-being,” she said.
“Our response is vital and we are committed to answering as many calls as we can. We need to continue to give women the support they need, when they need it, to escape abusive relationships.”
You can donate at www.womensaid.ie/donate or by sending donations to 5 Wilton Place, Dublin 2.
National freephone helpline: 1800 341 900, 10am to 10pm, seven days a week.
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