Christmas is a time of dread for domestic violence victims with cost of living crisis exacerbating conflict
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Despite this being the first year there has been no Covid restrictions since 2019, a host of other toxic ingredients including the cost of living crisis have added to the poisonous mix.
Claire Lambon, CEO of Stop Domestic Abuse, said: ‘Our experience and local evidence show that domestic abuse becomes more frequent, more severe and more dangerous during the Christmas period. For victims and survivors of domestic abuse, Christmas can be a very difficult and stressful time of year.
‘Christmas does not cause domestic abuse but with partners being home from work, children not in school, triggers such as alcohol, can exacerbate the violence. Many families are still dealing with the fallout of the pandemic, this combined with the cost-of-living crisis and the men’s World Cup taking place in the run-up to Christmas may contribute to a rise in domestic abuse.
‘We also shouldn’t forget that domestic abuse is not just physical abuse. Perpetrators will use controlling and coercive behaviours which can cause isolation from friends and family. Stop Domestic Abuse works with women, children, young people and men at this time of year to put into place plans to keep themselves safe during this period. We provide refuge accommodation across Portsmouth, Hampshire and Southampton to women and children needing somewhere safe to go.’
Aurora New Dawn CEO Shonagh Dillon said: ‘People can find the festive period stressful for a number of reasons. There’s pressure to make sure everyone’s enjoying themselves, people spending extended periods of time together in a way they don’t at any other time of year, and often people drink more than usual. Some men will use these factors as excuses to harm the women in their lives, and it’s not acceptable.
‘We always have staff ready to support women who need advice, a friendly ear or a way out of their situation. We tend to see a rise in calls in January, once children are back at school and partners are back to work. Whenever someone is ready to make the call for help, our helpline is open.’
Ruth Davison, CEO of Refuge, emphasised that domestic abuse ‘doesn’t happen simply because it’s Christmas’ – with abuse ‘always a choice a perpetrator makes’. She added: ‘We know that many women will be facing additional challenges at this time of year, be it the increased costs of gifts and food at this time of year, having to celebrate away from their family or struggling with the pressure of the cost-of-living crisis.
‘If you are experiencing abuse over the festive period, my message to you is that you’re not alone. Refuge is here to support you. We know other services might be closed during the festive period, but we are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our trained advisors will listen to you and believe you, and can help you find the right support for your situation.’
Councillor Jason Fazackarley, safety in the community boss at Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘As we head into the festive season, this year we have additional pressures caused by the cost-of-living crisis. It should be a time when we enjoy being with friends and family, but for those who are in an abusive relationship, the reality is different with some people feeling very isolated.
‘This issue has been a priority for the Community Safety Partnership, as domestic abuse accounts for 18 per cent of all crime in the city, and for 46 per cent of assaults. Help is there if you need it. If you feel that you are in an abusive relationship or know of someone who is, please call the Stop Domestic Abuse helpline or if it's an emergency, call 999. If you're unsure whether you are in a healthy relationship you can always find help on the “Is This Love” website at isthislove.org.uk.’
Det Chief Supt Fiona Bitters, the domestic abuse lead for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, said: ‘In 2021, we saw a slight increase in the number of domestic-related incidents reported to us, but this certainly would not be unexpected over the festive period, where more people are at home together for extended periods.
‘Whilst this in no way excuses the behaviours of those who seek to cause harm, alarm or distress to their victims, I am conscious that there are other external factors which may be playing a role in potential volatile relationships or situations, for example, current economic and financial pressures at a time like Christmas can exacerbate the pressures on relationships and family dynamics.
‘Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary continue to work, and will do so throughout the festive period, with local commissioned services and charitable organisations to ensure the safety of victims and make them feel confident and comfortable to report all domestic-related incidents to police.
‘During the festive period we will have additional resources available to us across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight – including dedicated domestic abuse cars – to ensure that we can provide the best response that we can to all calls for service. We are absolutely clear that we do not tolerate any form of domestic abuse or violence We will do everything in our power to identify offenders, engaging with our victims and pursue an appropriate outcome.
‘As always, if you are being abused, or you know someone that is, please call 101 and report it to police, or make a report online. If it is an emergency, dial 999 immediately.’
If you or someone you know needs support or advice, Stop Domestic Abuse offers a confidential support service. Its free advice line is 0330 0053 3630 and email is [email protected].
The Stop Domestic Abuse Helpline is open from 9am to 9pm weekdays and 10am to 6pm weekends and bank holidays. The number is 023 9206 5494.
Those using abusive, violent or controlling behaviours who would like help to change can contact Stop Domestic Abuse on 023 9206 5484.
Aurora New Dawn’s helpline is 02394 216816 and Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247, or go to www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk.