When it comes to supporting victims of domestic abuse, Christmas is the most critical time of year. At Watson Morris, we help and support clients in various situations. One of the areas we specialise in is supporting victims of domestic abuse. Sadly, this can be prevalent during holiday periods, particularly Christmas, which often brings with it a reported increase in police call-outs for incidents of domestic abuse.
What is classed as domestic abuse?
Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner but also by a family member or carer. It is widespread. In the vast majority of cases, it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men.
Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence)
- Psychological and/or emotional abuse .
- Physical or sexual abuse.
- Financial or economic abuse.
- Harassment and stalking.
- Online or digital abuse.
The increase in domestic abuse at Christmas
Supporting victims of domestic abuse at Christmas is incredibly important because every year, there is an increase in reported cases. A number of reasons are suggested for the well-reported spike in domestic abuse incidents over the Christmas period. Financial pressures, alcohol on tap, trying to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas and being cooped up together for long periods all contribute to a regular rise in domestic abuse at Christmas.
Christmas is meant to be the most wonderful time of the year, but we know that for women and children experiencing domestic abuse, it is far from this and can be a frightening and isolating time.
We know that for women experiencing economic abuse, the run-up to Christmas, with its expectations and additional expenses, can be particularly hard. This may be even more significant during a cost-of-living crisis.
Experts in domestic and economic abuse will say it is not the events themselves that cause abuse. Instead, they provide an excuse for perpetrators to exert more power and control over an intimate partner. It is essential for anyone experiencing domestic abuse at Christmas or any time of year to recognise that perpetrators of abuse choose to act abusively and should always be held responsible for their own behaviour.
Many perpetrators will use Christmas and other factors, such as alcohol, finances or mental ill-health, to excuse their abusive behaviours or, more often than not, blame their victim for the abuse.
The Christmas period causes additional difficulties for victims, with fewer opportunities to report abuse and routes to safety shut down. School closures for the holidays also mean that opportunities for children to report abuse and access support are restricted.
How can Watson Morris help protect and support victims of domestic abuse over Christmas?
At Watson Morris, we are experienced in dealing with clients who have been affected by any form of domestic abuse. We can advise and represent clients who may need the court’s protection using remedies such as an injunction.
There are two main types of injunction available under Part 4 of the Family Law Act 1996: a non-molestation order and an occupation order.
- A non-molestation order is aimed at preventing your partner, ex-partner or other family member from using or threatening violence against you or your child, intimidating, harassing or pestering you. If someone breaks the terms of their non-molestation order, it is a criminal offence.
- An occupation order regulates who can live in the family home and can also restrict a perpetrator from entering the surrounding area.
We can also help in cases involving coercive control. Coercive or controlling behaviour does not relate to a single incident; it is a purposeful pattern of incidents that occur over time in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion over another. Coercive and controlling behaviour is also a criminal offence. For further information or to book a free consultation, please visit Home – Watson Morris Family Law
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse at Christmas or at any time of year, you can go to the Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or go to www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk. Anyone in immediate danger should call 999.
Written by Peter Morris
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