Christmas is not an excuse. Christmas doesn’t cause domestic abuse. Abusers do.
A local radio station asked listeners to phone in and tell them when they used the excuse “Och its Christmas”. A couple of callers said it was a great excuse to over indulge in chocolate and having a couple of Baileys on school night. However, the reality for some people is that it is used as another excuse by abusers for their violent and intimidating behaviour. Excuses for abusive behaviour range from alcohol, drugs, ill health, financial worries, childhood trauma, stress to name but a few. But the bottom line and reality is, there is no excuse. Christmas doesn’t cause domestic abuse, abusers do.
Woman living in domestic abuse situations are already living in quite often an unpredictable and unsafe environment. While highlighting that Christmas is not an excuse for abuse, it is important to acknowledge that adding to the mix, Christmas can be a very difficult and stressful time of year for victims and their families.
In 2020 the NSPCC estimated that at least 15,000 children were living in a household where domestic abuse took place during the 2 weeks of Christmas. For some children and young people, Christmas means shouting, hiding in their rooms and the constant worry of witnessing or experiencing abuse in the household. It means difficult memories of Police turning up at the door to deal with an incident.
While Christmas is not an excuse, why might Christmas mean the abuse or fear of abuse is worse? The Christmas and New Year holidays mean the abuser is likely to be on holiday from work (if they have a job), the days are shorter and the opportunities for women, children and young people to be away from home lessen. The pressure on the family is increased as although Christmas is generally associated as a ‘fun and festive’ time of year it can be the opposite. Additionally there is likely to be more alcohol consumed and alcohol is often already used as an excuse for abusers for their violent and abusive behaviours. Christmas isn’t “merry and bright” for everyone as demonstrated by these poems, “Christmas Eve”, “Mistletoe” & “Auld Lang Syne” by Refuge.
The poems read top to bottom and bottom to top illustrate how different Christmases can be. They speak for themselves.
In reality Christmas can be a time of year that women, children and young people do not look forward to. Instead of looking forward to spending time with family and exchanging gifts, they are often anxious about the threat of abuse looming over them.
What can be done to make this time of year safer or more positive for families affected by domestic abuse?
For women experiencing abuse it is about trying to keep yourself safe. For instance plan if you can to visit family/friends to reduce time with the abuser. Have a safety plan, such as ensuring you have your phone with you (with plenty charge in it), some money and identify a friend/family member that you can seek help from. We have a safety tips section on our website here https://www.caswa.org.uk/essential-information/our-safety-tips If you’re worried about someone you know, we have some useful information here https://www.caswa.org.uk/essential-information/im-worried-about-someone-i-know
For some women they may be isolated from friends as a result of the abuse and they have nowhere where they feel they can ‘seek’ refuge or support. However there is support and if you or if you know someone who needs help then there is support.
- CASWA - Over the Festive period from 20th December we are open from 10am-3pm. We are closed on 27th & 28th Dec and 3rd & 4th Jan. Tel: 0345 408 0151 Email: email@example.com
- The Scottish Domestic Abuse & Forced Marriage Helpline – The helpline is open 24/7. Tel: 0800 027 1234 or web: https://sdafmh.org.uk/
- In an emergency, please contact emergency services on 999.
It can often take years to seek help, it is never too late to ask for help. Support is here if you need it.