Monday 21st December 2020: Today, Women’s Aid, a national frontline support service for women affected by domestic abuse, today reveals that it’s 24hr National Freephone Helpline (1800341900) has responded to 41% more calls since the start of the pandemic compared to the previous year. The charity says it’s 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 abusive behaviour and financial stress. 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. Women’s Aid says that the vast majority of those who suffer domestic violence and abuse will never actually reach out to a specialist support organisation. So even the increased numbers only reflect the tip of the iceberg.
Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid:
“I am very concerned about the possibility of another lockdown in January it may deter victims from getting in touch after the Christmas period, when there is traditionally an increase in calls. In recent months we have received calls from women phoning in garden sheds, their cars or bathroom with the shower turned on to mask the conversation. Usually after Christmas, people go back to work and the kids go back to school and it creates that breathing space for taking the opportunity to reach out for support. That may not be an option this time around.”
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. 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.
“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 keep the peace to bring some semblance of normality for their children this Christmas. It is often in the aftermath of 25th December that the organisation receives 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.
Women’s Aid is sharing vital information via a social media campaign called ‘Don’t Suffer in Silence’.
Over the Christmas and New Year, Women’s Aid is highlighting the supports that are available for victims of domestic abuse to encourage more people to reach out and are calling for more community vigilance and for family and friends to be mindful of looking for and reaching out to anybody they are worried about who might be in a difficult situation.
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, available 7 days. Instant Message Support Service and further information available daily on www.womensaid.ie.
For any queries, please call Christina Sherlock on 0879192457 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes for editors/producers: