Why do domestic abuse cases rise at Christmas, and how to help those in need
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Christmas can be the most glorious time of the year; some well-earned time off from work, spending it with loved ones and enjoying the fun and festivities – what more could you wish for? But have you ever stopped to think that someone might be silently screaming down the road at the same time?
This is a reality for some. Christmas festivities can create a lot of stress, financial worries, and relationship problems. It can heighten tensions, which can often cause domestic abuse situations to escalate.
Domestic abuse is a prevalent and significant problem in the UK, yet it is massively under-reported as a crime. Despite this, figures related to domestic abuse are shocking, and at Christmas, victims are at an increased risk. The narrative around domestic abuse at Christmas is not dissimilar to other key holidays or when the football World Cup is on. The common factors among these are increased alcohol intake and intense periods where relationships are in confined spaces.
On average, it is reported that police forces in England and Wales receive over 100 calls relating to domestic abuse every hour. During the Christmas period, this can rise by 25%. However, not all victims will be included in this number, as many do not reach out for help, instead focusing on creating a sense of normality for young children or family members.
The combination of financial pressure, free-flowing alcohol, and being around loved ones can put an additional burden on relationships. The COVID-19 pandemic heightened domestic abuse cases due to the proximity of people within houses, most notably during the Christmas lockdown.
These are some of the reasons identified behind the sharp rise in domestic abuse over the festive period, and steps you can take to seek help for yourself or a loved one.
Who doesn’t like to have a drink at Christmas? It can lure even the most occasional of drinkers to consume excess amounts of alcohol. Drinking can increase irrational thoughts and anxiety, and someone under the influence may be unable to see the harm they are causing. Strong links have been found between alcohol consumption and the occurrence of intimate partner violence, suggesting that alcohol use increases the occurrence and severity of domestic violence.
Nobody wants to spend Christmas alone, and the festive period can be prime time for ex-partners to reconnect. For some, this might be good, but in other cases, where the relationship was already under pressure or abusive, it can lead to further abuse, either mental or physical.
Worrying about money can be overwhelming for some families at Christmas. The pressure to buy the latest technology as gifts, as well as purchase decorations, food, and drink, can be damaging financially and emotionally. Domestic abuse is three times more likely to occur when a couple is experiencing high financial stress. The Bank of England reports that in December, we pay out around £740 more; a 29% increase on a typical month. This extra spending can place an immense burden on individuals and families already struggling to make ends meet.
For some parents, the extra stress of children being off school with high expectations regarding their Christmas presents can cause increases in stress and anxiety, which could lead to an abuser acting irrationally towards their partner. Living in a home where domestic abuse happens can have a serious impact on a child’s mental and physical wellbeing. In any given month, 34,000 children are exposed to domestic abuse, but this number can increase significantly over the festive period.
Across the UK, there is a network of domestic abuse organisations that provide lifesaving services during the festive period. They can offer advice, refuge, and support for those who are most in need.
Want to help those in need? The power to make a difference and be a hero is in your hands today. At Toucan we’re here to make it easier for you; download our app and you’ll have a way to find charities dedicated to supporting domestic abuse victims this Christmas, and all year round.