This time of the year is difficult for many families. Financial pressures, obligatory socialising with people whose affections may not be entirely genuine, a perceived time for evaluating various aspects of one’s life, overindulgence, having to revert back to traditional gender roles, the need for things to be just so…
Many women fear the festive period. Not a year goes by when there isn’t a seasonal rise in incidents of domestic violence reported to the police. Humberside Police Force reports that calls rose from 38% in the rest of the year to 54% in December 2015.
“For too many children across Ireland, being home at Christmas, is not a place of safety, warmth and happiness. It’s a place of fear, loneliness, pain and neglect,” said the ISPCC (Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). On Christmas day more than 1000 calls were received by their 60 strong staff on Childline service from children reporting distress due to domestic violence and/or alcohol abuse.
Pangs of loneliness are more acutely felt by the elderly and floating populace at this time of the year. Age UK works steadily on reducing loneliness in the elderly, 1.2 million of whom suffer from it on a chronic basis. Their objective is : ‘No one should have no one on Christmas’.
For those of us who have recently lost a dear one, their physical absence is more visibly, painfully and deeply felt than other times. That one less present, that one less seat on the dinner table, that one less name on the card, that one less beaming smile, that one less hug …
Yes. Here’s an admission if there ever was one – I am a fan of the ‘Archers’ (a drama series on BBC Radio 4). Each time the theme tune comes on Si says, ”Let us pray.” I love Helen. She is a woman with a clear mind. Over the past few months I have been gripped by the twists and turns of the dramatic story of Helen and Rob Titchener. I have always had serious doubts about him. Not surprisingly, he did show his true colours and caused great suffering for Helen. It was interesting how insidiously, like a slithering serpent he created a severe degree of self-doubt and confusion in her mind and took control of all aspects of her life. They called it ‘mental abuse and coercive control’.
This made me look up some statistics around domestic abuse. I was shocked.
- Will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime.
- Leads to, on average, two women being murdered each week and 30 men per year.
- 3 women take their own lives every week to escape from domestic violence.
- Almost 30 women attempt suicide per day for the same reason.
- There is currently no ‘liability for suicide’ law under which an abusive partner can be prosecuted for the suicide of their victim.
- Accounts for 16% of all violent crime (Source: Crime in England and Wales 04/05 report), however it is still the violent crime least likely to be reported to the police.
- Has more repeat victims than any other crime (on average there will have been 35 assaults before a victim calls the police)
- Is the single most quoted reason for becoming homeless (Shelter, 2002)
- Is witnessed by 750,000 children per year.
The charity ‘Refuge’ is campaigning for a new ‘liability for suicide’ law that would hold perpetrators of domestic violence responsible for behaviour that drives their victims to suicide. ‘Taking Lives’ is a documentary film which tells the story of ‘Gurda’ who took her own life after suffering years of violent abuse at the hands of her husband. Her brother Nav has been actively campaigning for this law to be enforced. After Gurda’s death, instead of being punished, her husband was awarded financial benefits of the mortgage being paid off and all the insurance money.
Here are some of the myths associated with Domestic violence:
MYTH: Alcohol and drugs make men violent.
MYTH: It only happens in poor families on council estates.
MYTH: More women would leave if the abuse was that bad.
MYTH: Abusers grow up in violent homes.
MYTH: Some women like violence.
MYTH: Women ask for it. They deserve what they get.
MYTH: Abusive men have a mental illness. They can’t help what they do.
MYTH: He only hit her because he was under stress.
MYTH: He loses his temper sometimes, that’s all.
MYTH: Domestic violence is a private matter, you shouldn’t get involved.
Once again most of the work in this field is being done by charities like LWA (Living Without Abuse), Refuge, Shelter and Women’s aid. The government needs to do more.