Christmas season triggers abuse of women and children in the home

19 Dec 2013

Women's Aid today (Thursday 19th 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, including emotional abuse of children.

Women’s Aid Director Margaret Martin said, “Christmas is a time when family and friends revel in the best of human nature. But for the women supported on the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline (1800 341 900), Christmas can instead be a time when fear, intimidation, casual cruelty and sudden flashes of violence are directed towards them and their children. Violent partners 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*, spoke of her desperation during the Christmas period, "I never had access to money in my marriage and my husband always used to 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."

Ms. Martin continued, “Physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse are part of an ongoing pattern, which doesn’t subside during the festive season. Many women will work very hard to maintain the status quo, despite ongoing and increasing abuse, so that the family holiday will not be affected and that the children have as positive an experience as possible. Often in the aftermath of the holidays, Women’s Aid receives calls from women who find themselves in fear of assault at home or, having taken the brave step to leave a dangerously abusive situation, suddenly find themselves homeless and destitute.”

According to Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid, the National Freephone Helpline receives 30 calls each day from women who are frightened, isolated, and at risk in their own homes. The national domestic violence service is appealing for donations to ensure that the Helpline continues to give women the support they need, when they need it, to escape from abusive relationships.

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For more information contact Laura Shehan on 01-678 8858 or 087-9192457.

Notes to the editor/producer:

  • * 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 the leading national organisation providing support and information to women experiencing domestic violence. Women's Aid operates the National Freephone Helpline (1800 341 900) 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.
  • Christmas opening hours: 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 01-678 8858