Domestic Abuse: Finding Help Over Christmas And Helping A Loved One In Need
The Law Of… Finding Help At Christmas
Whilst calls to domestic abuse charity lines fall over the festive period, the amount of police calls from victims of domestic abuse rise.
Jenine Abdo, Family Law specialist, provides some advice for those suffering at Christmas and offers guidance for loved ones of those who are victims of domestic violence over Christmas and New Year.
Why Do Domestic Violence Rates Rise At Christmas?
For many people, Christmas is a happy time of year as it is an opportunity to spend valuable time with family. But for some, Christmas can be a difficult period for this very reason.
Detective Superintendent Paul Furnell, head of Safeguarding and Investigations, had the following to say about the rise in calls to police over the festive period:
"At Christmas and the New Year generally we have seen a rise in reports of domestic abuse. This may be due to excessive alcohol consumption, people spending more time at home, or financial pressures, but whatever the reason there are no excuses."
Many people across the UK have time off over the festive period and as a result, domestic abuse victims often feel less able to make calls to helplines. It is believed that victims hope to be able to 'hold it together' for their children over the festive period, despite the rise in cases of domestic abuse at this time of year.
Where Can Domestic Abuse Victims Turn To Over The Festive Period?
It is a misconception that there is less help available over the festive period. Anyone suffering from domestic abuse can find help at any time of the year, regardless of what expected opening hours are for other businesses.
The National Domestic Violence Helpline is staffed 365 days a year and for 24 hours a day, meaning someone is on the other end of a telephone to help throughout the year, even on Christmas Day.
If you choose to call the National Domestic Violence Helpline, Women's Aid provides some helpful advice that might make the process a little easier.
- Making sure it is safe to call the helpline. Try to make a call when the perpetrator is not in the same building so that they cannot overhear your conversation. You may not get through to the helpline immediately.
- During peak times (9:30 – 3:30 Monday to Friday), it may not always be possible to connect immediately to a helpline worker. The voicemail service can provide an alternative source of help and allows callers to leave a message to be called back.
- Have a pen and paper ready as the helpline worker may need to give you details of your local refuge and phone numbers of others that might be able to assist.
- If you can't call the helpline, it is possible to email and you can expect to receive a response within 5 working says. The email address to contact is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you email the helpline, you will not be able to receive a phone call in return as safety may be compromised.
- Women's Aid and the National Domestic Violence Helpline are clear that even if a child is not being directly hurt, witnessing violence of any sort can have serious detrimental effects on them. They will support domestic abuse victims to make safe choices for themselves and their children, but if it is deemed necessary, they may make a referral to Children's Services.
How Might A Loved One Be Feeling If They Suffer From Domestic Violence?
If you suspect that a family member, friend or colleague is experiencing domestic violence at home, your first instinct may be to protect your loved one. But intervening can be dangerous for both yourself and them.
Someone experiencing abuse in this way may be feeling:
- Overwhelmed with fear
- At fault and that by changing the way they are, the abuse might stop
- Conflicting emotions where they may say they love their partner but hate the violence
- Dependent on their partner, emotionally and financially
- Shame, guilt and embarrassment
- Hopeless and may find it difficult to make decisions about their future
Domestic violence is a crime and is completely unacceptable. But it is important to offer your loved one the correct support without putting yourself or them in danger.
How Can I Help A Loved One Experiencing Domestic Violence?
The National Domestic Helpline offers some important advice to anyone who suspects a loved one is experiencing domestic violence.
- Speaking with the person to help them open up.
- Being direct and start by saying things like, "I'm worried about you because…" or, "I'm concerned about your safety…"
- Avoid judgement
- Believe what they are telling you
- Do not tell them to leave or criticise them for staying
- Support their self-confidence and remind them that they are coping well with a difficult situation
- Discuss with them about how they might stay safe over the festive period. If they haven't already, suggest calling the National Domestic Helpline
- Offer to keep a spare set of keys for them or important documents such as passports or benefit books so that they can access them quickly in an emergency
How Can The Law Help A Victim Of Domestic Abuse?
In the first instance, calling the police gives them the ability to protect you and any children involved from danger and violence. If you are in fear for the safety of either you or your child, call 999.
It is important to remember that the law also recognises coercive control as a form of domestic abuse. You can seek help in the same way as domestic violence if you are the victim of this type of abuse.
If you do make the choice to take action, a family law solicitor can help you with advice and potential options for you and your child.
"Christmas is a time where domestic violence is heightened as a result of time off for all the family. It's important to support those around us that may need that little bit extra over the festive season."
"If you are a victim of domestic abuse, in whatever form, just remember that you are not alone. There are incredible services like the National Domestic Helpline that never close, even at Christmas and are there to help you."
"If you decide to leave, there are also shelters open 365 days a year and the helpline can help you find a space for and your children if that is what you decide to do."
If you are a victim of domestic abuse and have decided to take action, call our helpline for free legal advice regarding your next steps.