As the festive season approaches and the world gears up for relaxation and Christmas cheer, it’s important to remember that for many individuals, domestic abuse doesn’t take a holiday break. In a recent article by Niamh Campbell in Belfast Telegraph, workers and volunteers at Women’s Aid emphasised that “domestic abuse is every day of the year.” While December is traditionally known for its challenging and busy period for domestic abuse calls, Sonya McMullan, the regional services manager at Women’s Aid, highlights that the aftermath of the holidays can be an even more difficult time.
During the holiday season, many women choose to endure abusive situations for the sake of their families, particularly their children. They try to keep it all together, presenting a facade of holiday happiness, but the reality behind closed doors can be far from cheerful. Sonya McMullan notes that Women’s Aid has seen a clear pattern in their work – calls for help increase after Christmas, and referrals into their services surge as well.
This increase in domestic abuse incidents after the holiday season is a stark reminder that while advertisements depict Christmas as a joyful time, there are countless women living in homes filled with coercive control and various forms of abuse, including physical, financial, and economic abuse. Moreover, the ongoing cost of living crisis compounds these difficulties, creating a challenging environment for those already living in abusive situations.
The extended period that families spend together during the holidays can also exacerbate abusive situations. When people are forced to be in close quarters for a prolonged period, tensions can escalate, leading to more instances of domestic abuse.
It’s a tragic reality that women and children find themselves seeking refuge on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. Sonya McMullan shares a poignant incident that occurred in Co Armagh on Christmas Eve, years ago. A woman in a high-risk situation, who had experienced physical injuries due to her abusive partner, had one concern in the midst of the crisis – getting her children’s Christmas presents to the refuge. Despite the emergency services being involved and her own injuries, she only cared about ensuring her children would wake up to Christmas presents. This heart-wrenching story highlights the lengths to which women go to protect their children, even in the most dire circumstances.
The article also provides a sobering statistic – there were 33,210 domestic abuse incidents in Northern Ireland in the 12-month period leading up to the end of June. Furthermore, 161 incidents were reported to the police on New Year’s Day 2022 alone. These numbers underscore the gravity of the issue and the urgent need for support and intervention in domestic abuse cases.
While the holiday season is a time of joy and celebration for many, it’s crucial to remember that domestic abuse does not adhere to a calendar. The stories and statistics presented in this article by Niamh Campbell, with insights from Sonya McMullan of Women’s Aid, serve as a stark reminder that we must be vigilant and supportive year-round. Domestic abuse is an ongoing crisis that requires continuous efforts to provide help and resources to those who need it. If you or someone you know has been affected by domestic abuse or coercive control, reaching out to organizations like Women’s Aid is a crucial step towards safety and support.