Christmas is traditionally a time of joy and togetherness for families, but for victims of domestic abuse it can be a time of increased trauma. Statistics show significant increases in domestic violence incidents during the Christmas holiday period when compared to the rest of the year.
The Western Australian police released figures relating to the 2018-19 Christmas-New Year period showing:
- A 26.1% increase in police tasks related to family violence
- An 18.6% increase in the number of incidents involving children being exposed to domestic violence
- A 20% increase in family violence related investigations
- A 26.2% increase in the average daily number of victim protection orders issued
And that only covers those who were courageous enough to report an incident.
What causes this trend?
There are several factors associated with the rise in domestic violence statistics during the Christmas period including:
- Increased alcohol consumption – the combination of parties and extended time off work means the Christmas period sees an increase in alcohol consumption, which is a contributing factor in many cases of domestic violence.
- Increased pressure on parents – with the stress of having to organise Christmas events, purchase presents for the kids, organise extra activities and especially the financial worries often associated with Christmas, parents are often drained during this time of year.
- Spending more time with families – time spent with extended families at Christmas can lead to tension and arguments, causing emotions to boil over.
Early warning signs to look out for
Being aware of early signs of domestic violence as we approach the Christmas season can help minimise risks. Noticing what triggers a person or the signs that they might be about to explode can give people the chance to talk them down or remove themselves from the situation.
Some of the most common displays of domestic abuse around Christmas include:
- Verbal abuse
- Controlling behaviour
- Unrealistic expectations
- Threats of violence
- Use of force
A domestic abuser is often easily insulted and likely to explode over small things and perceives problems as personal attacks. The victim is left walking on eggshells trying not to trigger them.
Either privately or publicly putting down and undermining the victim, calling them names, swearing at them, or insulting them.
The abuser may question the victim about their movements, who they talk to, want to know where they are at all times, and they might accuse them of flirting or cheating.
The abuser might control finances, controlling where the victim is allowed to go or what they are allowed to do.
The abuser may expect the victim to perform unrealistic tasks and do everything themselves, such as take care of their partner’s emotional needs, doing all the domestic chores, earning money, caring for the children and so on.
Isolating the victim from friends and family, is a serious domestic abuse indicator. They may also confiscate their partner’s phone or ban them from using the car.
Threats of violence
Domestic violence isn’t just a physical act. An abuser may make their victim feel unsafe through threats or breaking objects to punish, frighten or subdue them.
Use of force or physical violence
Pushing, shoving, restraining, hitting, slapping, kicking and punching are all major factors of domestic violence.
What can you do to help a friend at risk?
Don’t ignore the signs, if you suspect someone you know is experiencing domestic violence reach out to them. You can help them by:
- assuring the person that you’re there for them
- listening without judgement
- staying in contact
- including them even if they decline or cancel your plans
- informing them about the resources available
Sometimes the most important thing is letting them know you’re there for them and that they’re always welcome at your place, no matter what time of day they want to come round.
Domestic violence resources
If you or someone you know needs help escaping a domestic violence situation contact the following resources:
If someone is in immediate danger, dial 000.
NSW Domestic Violence Line
1800 65 64 63
This service provides domestic violence counselling, referrals and advice.
This is a national helpline providing resources for those who experience abuse.
1800 333 000
1300 735 947
With offices throughout New South Wales, East Coast Law Family Law can provide legal advice and mediation on domestic violence related matters.
For more information on domestic violence, including what signs to look for and how you can help someone who is suffering from emotional abuse, download our free domestic violence support eBook.