Media Release: Christmas is a time of hurt, fear, intimidation and intentional cruelty for women affected by domestic abuse, says Women’s Aid.

23 Dec 2019

  • Christmas offers no respite for women affected by domestic violence who are spending the festive season walking on eggshells.
  • Christmas is a time of hurt, fear, intimidation, intentional cruelty for women with sudden flashes of violence directed at them and their children.
  • Ex-partners using Christmas as a way to control and abuse women and children.
  • Women’s Aid National Helpline open 24hrs a day, 7 days a week including Christmas Day and New Year.
  • Spike in calls expected after Christmas with many women 'keeping the peace'.

Monday 23rd December 2019: Women’s Aid, a national frontline support service for women affected by domestic abuse, today reveals that Christmas offers no respite for victims with many women and their children spending the festive season living in fear and walking on eggshells. The organisation’s 24hr National Freephone Helpline will be open all day every day during Christmas including the 25th December. The staff and volunteers on the National Helpline are preparing for the Christmas period with women calling in the run up to Christmas worried about their partner’s behaviour and financial stress. For women who have left their abusive relationships, Christmas can be used by their exes to control and abuse them and their children by withholding maintenance, not honouring access arrangements and using presents for the children as a bargaining chip. Christmas is a time of hurt, fear, intimidation, intentional cruelty for women with sudden flashes of violence and abuse directed at them and their children. Abusive men can use the holidays to threaten the well-being of children using them as pawns to control and intimidate during what should be a time of joy.

Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid says:

“December and Christmas is a tough time for women and often the abuse they are suffering is more frequent and more severe with women disclosing that they have been assaulted, hospitalised, being ignored and being called the most horrible names. Just because it is the festive season, it doesn’t mean that physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse goes away. Women tell us that their ex-partners are threatening to withhold finances and presents for the children unless she does what he wants. Women are being manipulated and controlled by their partners.”

However, Women’s Aid says that they don’t expect a spike in calls on Christmas Day itself:

“Many women will work very hard to manage the situation and to bring some semblance of normality for their children this Christmas. It is often in the aftermath of 25th December that we receive more calls from women who are living in fear of assault or who are taking steps to leave the relationship and who suddenly find themselves and their children homeless and without any means or supports.  We usually we would see a bit of an uplift when the kids go back to school. Women with small children need a window of opportunity to make the call. If they’re still living with the partner that can be very difficult as he’s going to be around more [over Christmas]. We get a number of calls on a regular basis where a woman is talking and suddenly, mid-sentence the line goes or she might just say I can hear a key in the door. That happens all-year round."

Ms Benson concludes:

“The abuse won’t stop for Christmas but neither do we. This year we will be open 24 hours a day every day, including the 25th December and over New Year. Services are vital at this time of the year and we are committed to answering as many calls as we can. We need to continue to give women the opportunity to talk things through and offer the support they need, when they need it. We are here for every woman who needs to talk about anything that is making them anxious, worried and fearful about their partner. Every call is important so please just pick up the phone.”

Women's Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 www.womensaid.ie.

Ends. 

For more information call Christina Sherlock on 087 9192457 or email christina.sherlock@womensaid.ie

Notes for editors/producers:

  • Written Case study available at https://www.womensaid.ie/about/newsevents/casestudies.html
  • Women's Aid is a national organisation providing support and information to women experiencing domestic violence through its Direct Services. It runs the only free, national, domestic violence 24hr helpline (1800 341 900, 24 hours, 7 days) with specialised trained staff and volunteers, accredited by the Helplines Partnership and with a Telephone Interpretation Service covering 170 languages for callers needing interpreting services as well as a Text Service for Deaf and Hard of Hearing women. Women's Aid also offers a Dublin-based One to One Support Service and Court Accompaniment Service and runs the Dolphin House Support and Referral Service in the Dublin District Family Law Court (in partnership with Inchicore Outreach Centre.)
  • The Women's Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline answered 15,835 calls in 2018. There were 721 one to one support visits and 257 court accompaniments carried out by its One to One Support Services.  An additional 591 drop-in sessions took place at the Dolphin House Support and Referral Service.  There were also 1,685 additional support calls by our One to One Services, including at Dolphin House.
  • There were 16,994 disclosures of domestic abuse to Women’s Aid Direct Services in 2018 including 11,112 disclosures of emotional abuse, 3,816 disclosures of physical abuse, 526 disclosures of sexual abuse (Including 226 disclosures of rape) and 1,540 disclosures of financial abuse.  In the same year, the organisation heard 3,728 disclosures of child abuse in the context of domestic violence.