Extra Stress Triggers Domestic Violence at Christmas

16 Dec 2009

  • National Helpline hears from women experiencing more frequent and more severe abuse
  • Fundraising appeal underway to support vital domestic violence service

Women's Aid today (Wednesday, 16th December 2009) revealed that women experiencing domestic violence are disclosing that the extra stress of the festive period is triggering more frequent and more severe abuse at home. In particular, women are reporting increasing financial abuse by their boyfriends, husbands and partners. Financial abuse by ex-partners and ex-husbands is also very prevalent at this time.

The Women's Aid Helpline will remain open all over Christmas, except Christmas Day, and Women's Aid is in the middle of it's Christmas Fundraising Appeal to raise much needed funds for the vital services it provides. There has been a very positive response so far but Women's Aid hope people will think of women and children living with domestic violence at Christmas and donate. Sarah Benson, Manager of the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline said "We know that our Helpline is quite literally a lifeline for women and we hope that people will continue to support our vital services by donating online at www.womensaid.ie or over the phone at (01) 868 4721."

Ms Benson continued "We know that domestic violence is a feature of Irish life throughout the year. However, at this time of year, the extra pressures which are placed on women and their families can exacerbate domestic violence incidents. There are specific ways in which the Christmas period impacts on the way women are abused. Abusive men may be at home more over Christmas or may be drinking more. While alcohol is not responsible for domestic violence it does act as a dis-inhibitor for abusive men and this may lead to more violent episodes. Also, there is a notable increase of financial abuse."

Examples of this financial abuse include: withholding money for Christmas presents and food; where the relationship has ended the abusive partner may withhold child maintenance; and forcing the woman to take debt in her name to meet the family financial needs.

One woman, Mary*, called the Helpline recently and spoke of her desperation. "I never had access to money in my marriage and my husband always used keep check on all the spending in the house when he was living here. 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. I finally had the courage to separate to escape all of the control and he hasn't paid maintenance since then so it has been really hard to manage. Christmas is such a scary prospect with the girls still expecting Santa. Now my husband has promised them the sun moon and stars and they are so excited but he has told me that 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. My stomach is in knots and I can't sleep; I feel so manipulated and now I have to face my children having no Christmas unless he gets his way."

Despite the impact of the festive season many women who are experiencing the increased abuse will work very hard to maintain the status quo so that the family holiday will not be affected. Ms Benson concluded "We know anecdotally from our Helpline that women work really hard to keep the peace and calm during the Christmas season and the lead up to it, especially if they have children. Callers to the Helpline tend to seek support to get through the time rather than active ways to escape the violence."

The Women's Aid Helpline, is open from 10am - 10pm, 7 days a week (except Christmas Day) 1800 341 900


For more information contact Christina Sherlock on 087-9192457 or 01-8684721 or Niamh O'Carroll on 087-6286171.

Notes to Editors\Producers

  • * Mary's story is based on real accounts as told to Women's Aid. Specific details and circumstances have been changed in the interest of protecting identity and to preserve the confidential nature of Women's Aid Services.
  • Women's Aid is a voluntary organisation, which provides support and information to women experiencing domestic violence. Women's Aid operates a National Freephone Helpline Service and a Dublin based One to One Support Service and Court Accompaniment Service. Women's Aid also refers to local refuges and support services around the country.
  • The Women's Aid Helpline is open 7 days a week, except Christmas Day, from 10am to 10pm.
  • Donations to the Women's Aid Helpline Appeal can be made online at www.womensaid.ie or by phone 01-8684721.
  • Research shows that 1 in 5 women in Ireland experience domestic violence.
  • The Women's Aid Helpline responded to 10,140 calls in 2008 during which 15,158 incidents of domestic violence were disclosed. There were 9,101 incidents of emotional abuse disclosed, 3,355 incidents of physical abuse, and 1,900 incidents of financial abuse. 802 incidents of sexual abuse, which is traditionally not disclosed by women experiencing domestic violence, were recorded, with 281 rapes within relationships being reported to the service.