Home is where the hurt is for many women and children this Christmas, says Women’s Aid.

16 Dec 2014

  • Women’s Aid National Helpline is hearing from women that the extra stress of Christmas is triggering more frequent and more severe domestic abuse.
  • Children are witnessing and experiencing abuse at home this Christmas.
  • Fundraising appeal underway to support vital domestic abuse services.

Women’s Aid today (Tuesday 16th December 2014) revealed that women experiencing domestic abuse are disclosing that the extra stress of Christmas is triggering more frequent and, at times, more severe abuse from their partners.   Women ringing the National Freephone Helpline are also disclosing that children are being directly abused and witnessing the abuse at home.  Often the abusive man is deliberately targeting the children and their hopes for Christmas in order to hurt them and their mother.  Abuse by ex-partners is also very prevalent during the festive period.

Margaret Martin, Director of Women’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.  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.”

One woman, Mary* spoke of her desperation during Christmas, “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, “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 this Christmas.  It is often in the aftermath of December 25th 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.”

The Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline receives 47 calls each day from women who are frightened, isolated and trapped in their own homes.  Ms Martin explains, “We hear from women throughout the year who face a constant threat to their physical and emotional well-being. 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.”

This December Women’s Aid is appealing for donations for its vital services. You can donate at www.womensaid.ie/donate or sending donations to 5 Wilton Place, Dublin 2.

Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900, 10am to 10pm, 7 days a week.

www.womensaid.ie

For more information contact Christina Sherlock on 01-678 8858 or 087-9192457.

 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 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.
  • Research shows that 1 in 5 women in Ireland experience domestic abuse.
  • The Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline answered 17, 254 calls in 2013.