Women's Aid today (Tuesday, 13th December) revealed that women experiencing domestic violence are disclosing that the extra stress of the festive period triggers more frequent and at times more severe abuse at home. Every Christmas we hear from women about how children become involved in the abuse, as tactics of abuse start to target children and their hopes for Christmas.
In particular, some women are reporting incidents of violence against children by husbands and partners. 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 appealing for funds for the vital services it provides. Women's Aid hope people will think of women and children living with domestic violence at Christmas and donate. Deirdre Campbell, 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 even during these difficult times."
Ms Campbell 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."
"There can be huge stress around custody arrangements and access to children. Children are threatened with no santa, no special treats, with not seeing their mother."
One woman, Mary*, called the Helpline last year 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. 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 Campbell concluded, "We know anecdotally from our Helpline that women work very 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
Women's Aid National Freephone service relies very much on donations from the public. Anyone who wishes to donate to their service can do so online at www.womensaid.ie or by sending donations directly to Women's Aid at Everton House, 47 Old Cabra Road, Dublin 7.
For more information contact Laura Shehan on 087-9192457 or 01-868-4721 or Niamh O'Carroll on 087 628 6171.