Well, until it isn't.
Over the Christmas period, reports of domestic abuse always go up, and this year we’ve had the added element of the World Cup - another point in the calendar when incidents of domestic abuse increase. It’s important to remember that it’s not the events themselves that cause this rise, but the opportunity for power and control to be exerted by the abuser.
A survey by Stowe Family Law, provided by DV-ACT, states that one in six respondents believed they were more likely to suffer emotional or physical abuse from their partner over the Christmas period.
How can we respond to this?
Be proactive. Ensure that the signage around any buildings or events is obvious, directing people to agencies or individuals that can support and help during this time. Ensure our messages are sensitive and bring the joy of Christmas.
Be alert. While this time is super busy, try your best to be aware of the relationships around you. Do you notice any differences? Who isn’t present who usually would be? Do you know the reasons why?
Be educated. A perpetrator's past behaviour is the best indicator of future behaviour. Just because an individual has been able to leave their abuser, it doesn’t mean that the abuse has ended. Post-separation abuse can continue years after they no longer live together and the first six months of leaving are when there is the highest risk to the victim.
Be aware. Ensure that the victim’s safety is at the forefront of your mind, and make any decisions on the basis of this Know your own feelings and reactions; this is often the place we make decisions from, which can mean that our own biases get in the way of the safety of the individual and their family.
Be respectful. Don’t presume someone wants you to help; be generous, but be kind and sensitive as well. We might think inviting someone round who will be alone is the obvious thing to do, but check with them as being with others may not be what’s helpful to them.
Be generous. With the above in mind, if you know of individuals who have left an abuser, offer some financial or practical assistance to them. With the utility prices so high, top up their gas and electric so they can be warm, and cook or provide a hamper or gifts for family members.
Be honest. If things are feeling too much for you, ask for help. There is a list of helplines below, or contact a friend or family member if that’s a possibility.
Be safe. If you’d like it, there are professionals who are available and willing to support you. Put your safety first in any decisions you make.
Be clear. If you’re having to navigate complex relationships with family, or child contact with the perpetrator, it can be helpful to first be clear in your own mind about what you do and don’t want. We may not be able to have it exactly as we’d like, but to be able to find our peace with what is possible will help. Maybe find someone to talk this through with and then communicate in a way that means as little contact as possible. You can read some helpful tips here.
Be sure. For those who have been able to leave, we might need some extra confidence in the decision we made; rose-tinted glasses can mask the harsher realities of past Christmases. For some advice, you can read more here. As the article says, ‘Stay on your path of healing.’
Be. Christmas will bring up so many emotions and feelings for you, and some will be very difficult. Allow yourself to feel them; the more you try not to, the more they’ll be there. If you feel like you can’t deal with them right in the moment, it might be helpful to ‘park them’: write them down, text them to a trusted friend or family member…there’ll be time to deal with them in the New Year. If none of that is possible then please make contact with one of the helplines below.