What you can do if you spot the signs of domestic abuse this Christmas

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While most of us celebrate the Christmas season with festivities and merriment, for victims of domestic abuse the Christmas period is one of the hardest times of year to access support, a leading domestic abuse charity has revealed.

Domestic violence takes over lives and remains a constant threat in homes across the UK with two women killed every week at the hands of a partner.

Abusers control every aspect of a victim’s life and by doing so makes it incredibly difficult to seek help, with Christmas time being no exception.

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, said, “At Refuge, we actually receive fewer visits to our website and fewer calls to the National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership with Women’s Aid) around Christmas than we do at other times of the year.

“It can be very difficult for a woman experiencing domestic violence to access support during the festive period – a period when her abusive partner may be spending more time at home and monitoring her behaviour more closely than ever.”

In a lifetime one in four women will experience physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse at some point.

Sandra adds, “Some police forces see increases in reports of domestic violence incidents at Christmas. This may be because many police forces run high profile awareness campaigns around Christmas time. But the truth is that domestic violence takes place all year round. The police should be encouraging women to reach out for support every day of the year, not just at Christmas.”

Earlier this year proposed cuts to remove refuges and other short term welfare accommodation from the welfare system. This would reportedly reduce the services or close 53 per cent of refugees according to Women’s Aid.

If you’re concerned that a friend is being abused by a partner Refuge offer the following advice for how you can support her throughout the Christmas period, and beyond.

Try to create a safe environment for her to talk to you about what’s happening. Remember that her partner may be monitoring phone calls, texts, emails and Facebook messages, so meet in person if you can.

Give her time to talk about what has been happening.

Be patient – it can take time for a woman to recognise she is being abused, and even longer to make decisions about what to do. Recognising the problem is the first step.

Tell her openly that you are worried about her.

Listen to her. Believe her. All too often people do not believe a woman when she first discloses abuse.

Tell her that the abuse is not her fault. Only the abuser is responsible.

Remind her that she is not alone. If her abuser has isolated her from friends and family, she could be feeling very lonely. Tell her that you are there for her, and that there are solutions.

Build up her confidence. Tell her she is incredibly strong and resilient for coping with what is happening. Focus on her strengths.

Encourage her to break her isolation. Building up her support networks may help her feel stronger and less isolated.

Don’t try to be the expert and don’t judge her for her choices.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse please contact the Freephone 24 hr National Domestic Violence Helpline Run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge for specialist support by calling 0808 2000 247 or visit www.refuge.org.uk or www.womensaid.org.uk.