Women's Aid warn domestic abuse increases after Christmas Day

The extra stress in the run-up to Christmas is triggering “more frequent and, at times, more severe abuse” of women at the hands of their partners, a leading charity has said.
Women's Aid warn domestic abuse increases after Christmas Day

Women’s Aid warned that the abuse can ratchet up after Christmas Day, often because some women take the first steps to leave the relationship at that time.

The charity announced plans to make its national freephone helpline a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation from January 4.

Women’s Aid director Margaret Martin said women ringing the helpline were also disclosing that children were being directly abused or were witnessing the abuse at home.

She said abusive men often deliberately targeted the children and their hopes for Christmas in order to hurt them and their mother.

“For most of us, Christmas is a time for celebration and for making happy memories,” Ms Martin said. But she said that, for many women contacting them recently, the reality of Christmas was far different.

“It is a time of hurt, fear, intimidation, intentional cruelty, and sudden flashes of violence directed at them and their children,” she said.

“Abusive men can use the holidays to threaten the wellbeing of children, using them as pawns in control and intimidation during what should be a time of joy.”

One woman, Mary, who preferred to remain anonymous, said she never had access to money.

“He would even turn off the lights when he left the room — never mind that myself or one of the kids was still in there,” she said.

Mary said she finally summoned the courage to separate, but that he hasn’t paid maintenance since.

“It has been really hard to manage,” she said. “Christmas is such a scary prospect with the girls still expecting Santa.

“My husband has promised them the sun, moon, and stars and they are so excited, but he has told me there will be nothing for them if he can’t come back and have Christmas ‘as a family’.

“He will tell them that it is mammy’s fault that Santa won’t come.”

Ms Martin said some women work very hard to keep “some semblance of normality for their children” at this time.

She said the days after Christmas Day could be worse: “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 taken steps to leave the relationship, find themselves and their children homeless and without means.”

Ms Martin said Women’s Aid planned to extend the operating hours of the helpline on January 4, 2016, from a 12-hour a day service to 24/7 service. Staff at the helpline responded to more than 11,000 calls in 2014.

Meanwhile, Amen, which provides a confidential helpline, as well as a support and information service for male victims of domestic abuse, received 6,600 contacts in 2014.

Women’s Aid helpline: 1800 341 900 or womensaid.ie

Amen’s helpline: 046 902 3718 or www.amen.ie

National 24-hour rape crisis helpline 1800 77 88 88

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