Family Law

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The darker side of Christmas...

View profile for Victoria Poole
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…financial stress, marital strain & domestic abuse.

As wonderful as Christmas is for the vast majority, existing marital problems combined with financial stress and playing happy families together can put some relationships under extreme pressure.

For couples who’ve been suffering from longer-term problems, the festive holiday can merely serve as a trigger point resulting in the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship and filing for divorce in the New Year.

As tough and painful as this situation can be, the experience of domestic abuse is an entirely different matter.

Domestic abuse at Christmas – the reality

For many victims, Christmas is an unbearably difficult time, full of fear and unhappiness as the abuse can often manifest or increase during the holiday. And sadly, horrific statistics provide clear evidence of this.

Although national domestic abuse charities experience a drop in calls around Christmas while victims try to ‘keep it together for the family’, police forces actually see an increase in reported cases.

According to UK government figures from 2012, assault and domestic murders increase 25 per cent during the festive period and incidents go up by a third on Christmas Day itself.

It’s often reported that domestic abuse at this time of year is fuelled by money worries, excessive alcohol consumption and spending long periods of time at home.

But there are NO excuses.

New legislation, greater protection

In December 2015, we reported on a new law that was introduced in England & Wales offering victims of abuse protection from not just violence but ‘controlling and coercive behaviour’.

This type of abuse could include verbal, sexual, psychological, financial or emotional abuse taking the form of a pattern of threats, humiliation and/or intimidation – it can include instances of a victim being stopping from socialising, having their social media accounts controlled, being subject to surveillance through apps or being told what to wear.

More awareness

Whilst the law change was hailed a ‘landmark moment’, sadly one year on the new legislation is still not used to full effect. In the first 6 months this new law was used just 62 times across England & Wales.

It’s simply not good enough when we know 1 woman in 4 will experience domestic abuse* from a partner or spouse at some point in her life, and 2 woman a week are killed**.

In a nutshell, more awareness of this law is essential.

Seeking help at Christmas

Breaking the cycle of abuse is a process that takes time and whilst it can feel impossible for many victims to access support or escape the abuse particularly during Christmas, help and advice is always available.  

The National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline - 0808 2000 247- is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and further information and support can be found on the Refuge and Women’s Aid websites.

Don’t suffer in silence

Victims of domestic abuse can feel completely isolated and very alone, so just talking to someone can often be the first step towards accessing information and support.

If you feel you may be a victim of domestic abuse and/or violence, or you know someone who is, speak to a family member or friend you trust in a place you feel safe.

If you don’t feel able to do this yet or you’d prefer to speak to someone removed from the situation, please get in touch with me on 01606 48777 for a confidential discussion. I work in the Family Law department here at Susan Howarth & Company - I’m also a Resolution-accredited specialist in Domestic Abuse and I’m here to help.