Christmas is usually thought of as a time for friends, family and loved ones – but it is also the time of year that sees levels of domestic violence rocket.
Louise Sinnerton looks at some of the ways that the problem of domestic abuse is being tackled in Wales.
It’s easy to forget some of the work people do for those who are victims of domestic abuse at Christmas. Frustrations at home often get out of hand and rows can erupt into violence.
Just last week Wales’ hard hitting campaign to raise people’s awareness of domestic abuse and ensure there isn’t a culture of tolerance came to an end. However cases of domestic violence are on the rise as Christmas approaches.
In the UK 1 in 4 women is a victim of domestic abuse, whilst globally it is the biggest killer of women aged 19-44. It’s a phenomenon that costs England and Wales £15 billion pounds each year.
So how do people in Wales deal with domestic abuse at this time of year, when the festive cheer and Christmas mayhem covers up what’s going on behind closed doors, now the campaigns are over?
Nesta Lloyd Jones from Welsh Women’s Aid explains why domestic abuse is more likely at this time of year:
“Christmas is a time of increased fear and national figures show domestic abuse increases during this time. Last December the Wales Domestic Abuse Helpline managed an average of 69 calls a day from people experiencing domestic abuse.
“The reasons why domestic abuse increases during this time are that people spend more time together (by going to work the victim is safe from the perpetrator and the perpetrator is not at home to abuse the victim), there is a increased consumption of alcohol and it’s a more stressful time of year”.
In response to this The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says
“There is no justification for violence. Alcohol can be a contributing factor to violence, but it is not the cause of it. Blaming alcohol attempts to excuse the abuse and allows the abuser to not take responsibility for their actions”.
With this in mind, what has the 16 day campaigning to stop Domestic Abuse that began on the 25th November (the UN’s International Day for The Elimination of Violence against Women) achieved?
It seems the drive this year has been greater than ever before. Both UK and Global Domestic Abuse charities all suggest more awareness was raised than in previous years, although awareness itself is hard to measure. It’s true that Wales saw extensive work done this year.
A new Women’s Refuge opened in Cardiff two months ago, the South Wales Police supported the End Violence Against Women and Children campaign, and this year saw more collaboration between domestic abuse organisations and large companies.
Welsh organisations with lots of female employees are also getting more involved; Cardiff Transport, Cardiff Council, Panasonic, and DVLA all attended the Welsh Women’s Aid workshop.
Another effort to raise awareness was the novel The Fairytale Syndrome published in September. Written by Sam Jones, a domestic abuse coordinator from Carmarthenshire, it was inspired by how young people engage with and view the issue. Sam says
“A lot of people I initially come in to contact with don’t think they are being abused. Unless somebody physically abuses you where there are black eyes and there are marks that show, a lot of people aren’t aware of the financial and emotional abuse.
“So people accept it and don’t realise that it isn’t a normal relationship they are in. If they’ve come from an abusive relationship as a child themselves it becomes very normal behaviour. I do lots of work within schools to try to avoid situations where we work with third generation abuse”.
Most people don’t leave an abusive household until children are grown up so she wrote the novel to target people in their 20s and 30s to encourage them to engage with services before it’s gone too far. Here Sam talks about the message of her novel:
The most recent study done by Amnesty International into students’ views of domestic abuse in Wales shows only 34% were confident about what advice to give women who had been hit, 19% weren’t confident, and 30% were unsure.
When asked if they would encourage her to report it to the police 39% said yes, 22% answered no and 22% were not sure. Thanks to these reports working with different demographics is now the key objective.
Today the Welsh Assembly Government launched a new website Stop Blame and the EHRC have started working on next year’s White Ribbon Day, which will focus on men and boys working together to stop the violence. Different audiences are being targeted in both these cases and show breaking the taboo nature of a subject has to come from root levels.
The new website and ongoing 6 year strategy, The Right to be Safe, could answer the politicians who still question the government about their action. Both Lynne Neagle’s and Helen Mary Jones’ desire for updates on WAG action on 1st December demonstrate there is a lot of support for the work being done.
Wales Domestic Abuse 24 hour helpline is 0808 80 10 800