Women’s Aid today (Monday 21st December 2015) 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 31 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.”
Women’s Aid also announced details of its plans to make its national Freephone Helpline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week from 4th January 2016 in line with recommendations from the Istanbul Convention. Ms Martin explained, “We are now implementing our plans to change from a 12 hour a day to 24 hours a day Helpline service. We know how important it is to be available for women whenever they need us. That might be in the early hours of the morning before the kids wake up, or the middle of the night after an attack by her partner. Or it might be just the right time for her to want to speak to someone. From January 4th 2016 I am delighted that our National Freephone Helpline will become available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
This December Women’s Aid is appealing for donations for its vital services. You can donate by texting ACTION to 50300 to donate €4 or online www.womensaid.ie/donate.
Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900, 10am to 10pm, 7 days a week.
For more information contact Christina Sherlock on 087-9192457.
Notes to editors/producers: