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Dublin: 14 °C Friday 19 July, 2019

Women's Aid warns Christmas stress can trigger domestic abuse

The organisation said there is in increase during the holidays in direct abuse against children.

Picture posed by models
Picture posed by models
Image: Denizo71 via Shutterstock

WOMEN’S AID HAS said that women experiencing domestic violence are disclosing that the extra stress of the festive period triggers more frequent and at times more severe abuse at home.

Some 44 per cent of callers to the organisation’s helpline say that their children were present in the home where abuse was happening and 2,076 of them said the children have been directly abused.

Women’s aid said “children become involved in the abuse, as tactics of abuse start to target children and their hopes for Christmas”. Some women are reporting incidents of violence against children by husbands and partners as well as men they are no longer married to or in a relationship with.

The organisation’s helpline will remain open over Christmas, except for Christmas Day and Manager of the helpline, Deirdre Campell is appealing for public donations.

“We know that our helpline is quite literally a lifeline for women and we hope that people will continue to support our vital services even during these difficult times,” she said.

She said at this time of year, the extra pressures which are placed on women and their families can exacerbate incidents.

“Abusive men may be at home more over Christmas or may be drinking more,” she said. “While alcohol is not responsible for domestic violence it does act as a dis-inhibitor for abusive men and this may lead to more violent episodes.”

Campbell said there can also be major stress related to custody arrangements and access to children.

“Children are threatened with no Santa, no special treats, with not seeing their mother,” she said.

The organisation gave this example of a woman who called around Christmas time last year:

I never had access to money in my marriage and my husband always used 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.

“We know anecdotally from our helpline that women work very hard to keep the peace and calm during the Christmas season and the lead up to it, especially if they have children,” Campbell said. “Callers to the helpline tend to seek support to get through the time rather than active ways to escape the violence.”

The Women’s Aid Helpline, is open from 10am – 10pm, 7 days a week (except Christmas Day) 1800 341 900.

Related: Domestic violence figures a ‘sad indictment of Irish society’>

More: Women’s Aid calls for review of laws around domestic abuse>

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