Women’s Aid today (Monday 19st December 2016) 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 24hr National Freephone Helpline (1800 -341-900) 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.
Linda Smith, Manager of the 24hr National Freephone Helpline, 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. Smith 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 taking steps to leave the relationship, suddenly find themselves and their children homeless and without means.”
The Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline receives calls each day from women who are frightened, isolated and trapped in their own homes. Ms Smith 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.”
On January 4th, 2016, Women’s Aid made its National Freephone Helpline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in line with recommendations from the Istanbul Convention. We now answer an average of 41 calls a day, and by the end of the year an additional 5,000 calls will be answered, with many more contacting us through our website.
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 24 hr National Freephone Helpline 1800-341-900.
For more information contact Ciara O'Sullivan on 01 678 8858.
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 24 hr 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.
•Women's Aid will continue operating its 24 hr National Freephone Helpline (1800 – 341-900) 7 days a week throughout the Christmas season.
•Women’s Aid is appealing for donations from the public. Anyone who wishes to donate to their service can do so online at www.womensaid.ie/donate or by sending donations direct to Women's Aid, 5 Wilton Place, Dublin 2. You can also text ACTION to 50300 to donate €4. (100% of your donation goes to Women’s Aid across most network operators. Some operators apply VAT which means a minimum of €3.25 will go to Women’s Aid. Service provider: LIKECHARITY. Helpline: 0766805278.)
•Research shows that 1 in 5 women in Ireland experience domestic abuse.