As a charity, we have been working with people affected by domestic abuse for over 10 years. We work with male perpetrators of abuse and offer support to their partners, ex-partners and children. More recently we have begun to work with female perpetrators of abuse, in both same-sex and heterosexual relationships.
We see an increase in the narrative around domestic abuse at Christmas time, not dissimilarly to when there are other key holidays, or say, the world cup is on. The common factors among these are the increase in alcohol intake and intense periods where relationships are in confined spaces.
Like many domestic abuse organisations, we view the holiday period as a time of year when extra preparation may be necessary to ensure that Christmas remains a safe and happy time. Due to the nature of our work, we are aware that Christmas is a time when reports of domestic abuse can escalate.
This can be for the reasons as follows:
- It is a time when family members can get together – old hurts and grievances can come to the fore and there may be more opportunity to be able to talk/argue about these issues.
- It may bring its own stresses, such as financial pressures, or the pressure to ensure that everyone is having a ‘good’ time.
- It can be a period when alcohol is consumed more freely, with no restrictions such as getting up for work, doing the school run and doing the normal chores that may be a prohibitive factor for the rest of the year.
Our Senior Domestic Abuse Practitioner, Donna, explains:
“For the men we work with, we emphasise that this is like any other period of the year. They and they alone are responsible for their behaviours, so if alcohol is a factor is loosening inhibitions or has been a factor in arguments then its important they limit the amount they are consuming.
If certain members of their extended family act as triggers then they need to remove themselves or limit the amount of time they are with them. If they are in a situation where an issue may arise then there are other strategies such as self-talk, reality checking and time out that may be appropriate strategies for them to use to avoid conflict.
There are a lot of men on our programme where Christmas time is lacking all these factors, because they are separated from their partners and they are not allowed to see their children due to their abusive behaviours. Then Christmas becomes a time when they can feel dejected, isolated or depressed, leading to destructive behaviours towards themselves. Again, we advise that no one should feel that they are on their own and there are plenty of organisations, particularly at this time of year who are there to help.”
We also spoke with our Partner Support Worker, Emma, who has been working with female survivors for 10 years and more recently, male survivors.
She echoed Donna’s comments and added in that from the perspective of the person on the other end of the abuse, Christmas is difficult due to the enhanced pressures these individuals, particularly women, feel:
“One key thing I have addressed with the survivors I have been working with who are experiencing domestic abuse, is that Christmas does not have to be perfect. It is just one day. More so with women, they feel a huge pressure to ensure everyone is having a good time. They take on the responsibility of “making everything perfect” and feel that if in any way something doesn’t go according to plan, it’s there fault. This is absolutely not the case.
People, anyone, are responsible just for themselves and their children, but that’s it. The adults who are in your home or you share space with at Christmas are adults, they are responsible for their own enjoyment and actions.”
We also know that not just with incidents of domestic abuse, but with unhealthy or unhappy behaviours and issues in all kinds of relationships, it can make this time of year difficult for many people.
We see a very large increase in calls and enquiries for our services in January, compared to the rest of the year.
What we’ve found is that many people experience issues arising during the intense periods where pressures are high. Family issues from 5 years’ ago start to come up, couples begin to argue more, children – away from school and their routine can become restless and also maybe start to share their troubles with parents and people may experience the feeling of isolation.
We encourage people to try to stay safe, healthy and happy, but where this is not possible, or a situation has arose, please do take time you may need to reflect on this in January and contact us if you want to access any services or relationship support. We’re here for you.
In the meantime, please see below a list of useful numbers you can call during the Christmas period:
- The Samaritans (0161 236 8000): For any issues you may be having, they will listen to your concerns. This may be particularly useful for people who are feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or isolated
- Sanctuary Team Manchester ( 03000037029): Open at different times for different areas in Manchester, to support to adults who are experiencing anxiety, panic attacks, depression, suicidal thoughts or are in crisis.
- Respect Helpline (0808 802 4040): A supportive helpline for men, who may be concerned about their behaviour and would like to make some steps to understand and change it
- DV Helpline (0808 2000 247): A support line for women experiencing domestic abuse, open 24 hours, run by Women’s Aid and Refuge. They will support, help and provide information.
- Stay safe & happy holidays from the TLC Team.