TENSIONS OVER money, unrealistic expectations of the “perfect” Christmas combined with excessive alcohol consumed in enclosed spaces, are some of the reasons domestic violence spikes over the festive season.
This means a greater demand for police officers to attend to incidents, backed up by specialist domestic violence investigators. Ten per cent of all emergency calls annually are domestic violence-related, according to the Police Federation, making it a high priority area.
“Domestic violence tends to go hand in hand with alcohol,” said Detective Constable Sarah Harris, a domestic abuse officer with Greater Manchester Police. “So we brace ourselves at this time of year.”
Many of the cases on Christmas Day begin with the most mundane arguments, Harris explained. “One man was charged with breach of the peace after an argument with his wife, which began when she locked him out after accusing him of not helping enough with the Christmas meal.
“On Christmas Eve, a 60-year-old man threw a boiling kettle over his wife after a row that began after he ordered her to get him some clothes because he was cold. She ended up with a fractured neck after falling down the stairs.”
Kim Bacchus, a domestic violence survivor and author of three books, hopes her experiences will help other women escape the cycle of violence.
She told The Voice: “It is quite logical that domestic violence will increase during this holiday season because every possible risk factor is in play these days; the struggling economy, the jobless rate, home foreclosures, the rising cost of necessities and the stress of gift giving not forgetting the increased consumption of alcohol.
“During the holidays, when many people are home from work and spending unusually long periods of time with an abusive partner, there can be a greater sense of anxiety and stress that results in violence.”
Bacchus advised readers that, if they suspect a friend or family member is in an abusive relationship, to step up and be on standby for them – especially if they are mothers – by texting or calling them regularly.
“Do not let it be an out of sight, out of mind scenario,” she urged.
Recent statistics suggesting one in four women experience some form of domestic violence and one in eight experience it in over a 12-month period, Bacchus argued that the figures should be “shocking for a society serious about reducing crime”.
INSPIRATION: Kim Bacchus
Revealing she endured an abusive relationship for eight years, the mother of one, who specialises in life coaching, stress management and domestic violence awareness, explained that she did not even realise she was a victim.
“One day I switched the TV on and Oprah Winfrey was doing a show on DV. I watched thinking ‘those poor women!’ Only when they described what was happening to them did I start to identify my own situation. I was horrified.”
Typical signs of an abuser especially those who are on a prowl are the “charmers”, warns Bacchus. “Initially, they shower their partner with praise, adoration, and attention. Their courtship is sweet and intense-filled with phrases such as, ‘I can’t live without you’. They quickly push for an exclusive relationship or engagement.
“Next is the jealous type. They view everyone as a threat to the relationship and accuse you of flirting with everyone - from their family to your office workers. The third sign to look out for is the manipulator. This person is very intelligent. They know how to detect your weak spots, and use your vulnerability and past pain to their advantage.”
Dispelling the myth that domestic violence only affects women, she told The Voice: “Yes, men can be abused exactly like women. Domestic violence does not discriminate.
“Men are embarrassed to admit and openly tell someone that they are a victim of abuse at the hands of their female partner. After all, society dictates that a man should be strong and the head of the household.”
“We are all affected by domestic violence, and we all have a responsibility to speak out against it. Only then will it end,” stated Bacchus.
The average victim of domestic violence will be assaulted 20 or 30 times before they get help.
Bacchus added: “I would advise any victim to confide in someone, who can help you get the proper professional help.
“Educate yourself on what domestic violence is. Understanding what you are dealing with can help you immensely and plan with someone how you are going to leave. And just do it, because by then the proper authorities will be in place and your protection and safety for you and your children would be of paramount to them.”
In December 2014, Home Secretary Theresa May announced a new domestic abuse offence of ‘coercive and controlling behaviour’.
The maximum penalty for the new offence is five years imprisonment and a fine, when it comes into effect.
It will help protect victims by outlawing sustained patterns of behaviour that stop short of serious physical violence, but amount to extreme psychological and emotional abuse, including being controlled on a daily basis, intimidation and humiliation.
Bacchus advised: “Be the change you want to be this New Year and get help. You deserve to be happy.
“I am a survivor, I have turned what was a bad past into a positive future. You can achieve the same.”
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MYTHS
* It is alcohol and drugs that make men violent
* It only happens in poor families
* Women would leave if the abuse was that bad
* Abusers grow up in violent homes
* Some women like violence
Women ask for it, they deserve what they get
* Abusive men have a mental illness
* He only hit her because he was under stress
* He loses his temper sometimes, that’s all
* Domestic violence is a private matter, you shouldn’t get involved