Confronting the surge in domestic abuse over Christmas
Despite Christmas being a time of joy for many, it can also bring a hidden crisis: a rise in domestic abuse. The sad reality is that each year, there is a reported spike in domestic violence over the festive period – a fact that sees thousands of children exposed to domestic abuse over the two-week school holidays.
This month at DRN Law, we’re examining the reasons why this spike occurs…
Firstly, what does the data show regarding domestic abuse at Christmas time?
Staggering new figures reveal that at least 827,000 children in England and Wales may have suffered domestic abuse by the end of 2023, with incidences likely to increase at Christmas time. In fact, this year, on Christmas Day alone, a harrowing 669 child protection referrals are expected, at minimum.
However, these findings are not new or surprising and instead reflect a much wider and long-standing issue. In December 2019, domestic abuse constituted 16.4% of all recorded crimes, surpassing the annual average of 15%. This pattern mirrors trends observed in previous years, underscoring the persistent nature of this issue.
Even more alarmingly, the year 2020 witnessed a near doubling in the number of domestic violence incidents in the UK, escalating from 200,000 cases in 2019 to a staggering 369,000. Again, these figures highlight not just the growing scale of the problem but also the urgent need for effective intervention and support systems.
What is classed as domestic abuse?
Many people mistakenly believe that domestic abuse is limited solely to physical violence. However, it’s crucial to understand that abuse encompasses a broader spectrum of harmful behaviours, not just physical harm.
Abuse in domestic settings can manifest in various forms, not necessarily involving physical violence.
This includes ‘coercive control’ – a term that encompasses a range of non-physical tactics used by abusers to intimidate, harm, punish, frighten, humiliate, or threaten their partners. This form of abuse can be just as damaging as physical violence, impacting the victim’s well-being and freedom.
Suspected reasons for the increase in abuse at Christmas time include:
1. Increased alcohol consumption
Whilst Christmas ‘tis the season to be merry – for some, this can get out of hand. Increased alcohol consumption is a common part of festive celebrations across the UK, but it can also impair judgement and exacerbate conflicts, especially in strained relationships. It is important to note, however, that although alcohol can play a role in heightening tensions between partners, it is not an excuse for abusive behaviour.
2. Financial pressures
Another potential reason for the increase in domestic abuse over Christmas could be financial pressures. Some studies show that domestic violence is up to three times more likely to occur when a couple is experiencing financial difficulties.
This statistic becomes particularly poignant amidst the UK’s ongoing cost of living crisis. With the added financial burdens of gift-giving, festive meals, decorations, and social events, families already grappling with economic difficulties may find themselves under increased strain.
3. Increased isolation
Furthermore, Christmas, though a time for togetherness, can also be isolating, particularly for individuals in abusive relationships. The festive season may limit access to usual support networks, again heightening the sense of isolation and control exerted by abusers.
4. Magnification of existing relationship problems
Finally, due to the heightened pressures of social expectations at Christmas time, those in already strained or tense relationships may feel this tension strengthened at this time of year. The expectation to maintain a festive atmosphere or to spend a greater amount of time with family members and partners may potentially bring underlying issues to the forefront.
Unfortunately, the festive season often exacerbates challenges for victims of domestic abuse. With reduced chances to report incidents and fewer available options for finding refuge. Moreover, the closure of schools during this period limits the avenues through which children can disclose abuse and seek necessary help.
What should you do if you are a victim of domestic abuse?
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, you can contact the 24-hour freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 2000 247.
Meanwhile, if you are in immediate danger, please dial 999 and make a report to the police.
If you are in a situation where it could be unsafe for you to speak on the phone, dial 999, press 55 on your keypad when prompted, and do not hang up. This will transfer you to the police and help the operator understand that this is a genuine phone call but that you are not in a safe position to speak.
At DRN Law, we specialise in providing expert legal assistance to victims of domestic abuse. Our team of dedicated DRN solicitors is committed to offering ongoing support throughout your case.
For a confidential conversation with one of our team members and to learn more about the options available to you, please feel free to reach out to us at 01282 433241. We are here to help and provide you with the necessary information and guidance.