Rise in Cost of Living Crisis Calls to Women’s Aid over Festive Period

  • National Helpline hearing from women about increased levels of economic abuse exacerbated by the cost of living crisis.
  • Women’s Aid hear of ex-partners that use Christmas as a way to control and abuse women and their children.  They are withholding maintenance, not honouring access arrangements and using presents for the children as a coercive bargaining tool.
  • Christmas offers no respite for women affected by domestic abuse. Many women spend the festive season walking on eggshells and experience sudden flashes of violence directed at them and their children.
  • Women’s Aid 24/7 National Freephone Helpline is available all throughout the Christmas period including Christmas Day and New Year.
  • Calls expected to rise by 17% after the Christmas period.

Tuesday 20th December 2022: Today, Women’s Aid, a national frontline support service for women affected by domestic abuse, reveals that Christmas offers no respite for women using their services. Many women spend the festive season walking on eggshells and experience sudden flashes of violence directed at themselves and their children.  The organisation’s 24hr National Freephone Helpline will be open all day, every day during Christmas including the 25th and 31st of 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 both them and their children. Women’s Aid hear disclosures of ex-partners withholding maintenance, not honouring access arrangements and using presents for the children as a coercive bargaining tool. 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, Chief Executive 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 degraded and called the most horrible names. Just because it is the festive season, it doesn’t mean that physical, emotional, sexual and economic 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 do not expect a spike in calls on Christmas Day itself. Many women will work very hard to try to ‘keep the peace’ for their children. It is often the period following December 25th when the impact is known as the organisation receives an increase in calls from women. Based on 2021/2022 figures, the National Helpline will receive 92 calls a day in December with that rising to 108 calls a day in January.  This is an increase of 17%.

The vast majority of those who suffer domestic violence and abuse will never actually reach out to a specialist support organisation. So even these increased numbers will only reflect the tip of the iceberg of what many women will experience over the coming weeks.

Linda Smith, Manager of the Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline explains:

“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 can suddenly find themselves and their children homeless and without any means or supports.  We usually we would see a bit of an increase in volume of calls when the kids go back to school as women might seize the chance to reach out. This still may not feel safe, however, because partners can still be present and monitoring women’s movements and actions.  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.”

Noting a rise in calls relating to the current cost of living crisis, Ms Smith says:

“The cost of living crisis is exacerbating already difficult and abusive situations.  Economic abuse has been coming up more recently and I suspect it will continue.  Things like there also may have been restrictions on the use of power in the house, with the heating and so on – women mightn’t be allowed to put the heating on.  So some women and their children will probably be spending Christmas in the cold.  Women who have separated from abusive partners are also feeling the effects of the cost of living crisis as their partner may be withholding child maintenance in order to exercise a continued level of control despite the relationship ending.”

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, and signposting women to all the local services across Ireland if that is what they need. We need to continue to give women the opportunity to talk things through and offer them vital support and information. We are here for every woman who needs to talk about anything that is making them anxious, worried and fearful about their partner or ex. Every call is important so please just pick up the phone.”


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

  • 17% increase in contacts is estimated based on November 2021 to January 2022 figures: Based on 2021 figures: November 2021 – Call Contacts = 2608, December 2021 – Call Contacts = 2862, January 2022 – Call Contacts = 3344.
  • Please include the following Helplines and website:
    • Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900
    • Male National Adviceline 1800 816 588
    • www.stillhere.ie
  • Written case study for ‘Brenda’ available at: Cases
  • The Women’s Aid Christmas Pathway to Freedom Fundraising Appeal is ongoing.  Any support can be made via Get involved
  • 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 over 200 languages for callers needing interpreting services as well as an Instant Message Support Service on www.womensaid.ie. Women’s Aid also offers a Dublin-based One to One Support and Court Accompaniment Service and runs the Domestic Abuse Information and Support Service in Dolphin House Family Law Court (in partnership with Inchicore Outreach Centre.)