Usually promoted as a time to spend with family and friends, the festive season is also associated with peace, love, generosity and laughter. But Christmas can also be an incredibly difficult time for the thousands of women and children in Wales living with domestic or sexual abuse. They might be prevented from seeing family or friends, be financially controlled and feel isolated at home. They may be living in fear and control, experiencing harassment, threats or intimidation, rape and physical violence at the hands of their partners or family members.
Last year in Wales, over the Christmas period, our national domestic abuse and sexual violence helpline took over 2,500 calls. Some callers simply wanted to speak in confidence to someone who would understand what they’re going through, whilst others wanted advice about their options. Many women who called feared for their lives, and needed to escape to a refuge with their children.
The Live Fear Free Helpline in Wales (0808 80 10 800) has a highly trained and experienced team available 24-hours a day, every day – including Christmas Day – who offer support, advice and practical help for anyone living with emotional abuse, fear and control, isolation, physical or sexual abuse. The helpline can also put people in touch with refuges and local specialist services which provide a lifeline for the many thousands of women and children who need help and support each year. Last year specialist services in Wales supported over 10,000 adult survivors and nearly 4,000 children and young people.
However, we cannot simply blame domestic abuse on stress at Christmas time, or on alcohol, anger or financial problems. Domestic abuse takes place all year round, and happens because the abuser wants to dominate and control their partner or family member. Anyone can experience domestic or sexual abuse, at any age, in any street, and in any relationship.
Eleri Butler, Chief Executive of Welsh Women’s Aid, says:
“Welsh Women’s Aid and our network of specialist services are here to support anyone being abused every day of the year. Domestic abuse and sexual violence destroys lives and has a lasting impact. As well as physical injuries it can lead to depression, anxiety, self-harm, and low self-worth. It also seriously harms young people in their own teenage relationships, and witnessing domestic abuse in the home is child abuse.”
“We rely on short term funding and donations from supporters – any amount you can afford will help us support survivors and children in danger over the holiday period, and from the New Year your donations will help us support survivors to achieve longer term independence and freedom from abuse.”
Donations to Welsh Women’s Aid can be made over Christmas and the New Year through our Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/welshwomensaid-wwa