All I want for Christmas is…………..
Christmas Cheer or Christmas fear
For women living with domestic violence, Christmas offers no respite and can be a time of intensified coercion, punishment and violence. The toxic mix of financial pressure, families getting together, and free flowing alcohol can, quite simply be a lethal combination. Trivial excuses such as burnt pigs in blankets or the wrong gift choice can quickly escalate into a very dangerous situation. Over the Christmas period, calls to the police reporting domestic violence increase dramatically, generally to over 50% of all calls made.
Christmas can also bring intensified feelings of misery to women and children suffering domestic abuse, even if the abuse hasn’t escalated. If you’re miserable at a time when there’s a huge expectation to be having fun, the misery you feel will be so much more acute.
Sophie’s story is sadly all too common –
“I always dreaded Christmas when I was with Ben, I’d feel emotionally drained and physically exhausted as I’d spend my whole time trying to keep him from losing it, although I always failed. I’d be treading on eggshells, monitoring his moods, watching his facial expressions, trying to make everything perfect for him.
One Christmas we had the neighbours, Anne and Steve round for drinks in the evening. I thought I’d got away with it, I’d tried so hard and things had been okay during the day. Socialising with the neighbours had built in danger because I couldn’t completely avoid talking to Steve, I tried but it was impossible to avoid him without seeming rude.
I’ll never forget Ben’s face when he walked out of the kitchen and saw me and Steve together. I don’t suppose anyone else would have noticed but I had become an expert at studying Ben’s face and monitoring his moods. It was subtle but there was a clenching of his jaw and a slight narrowing of his eyes that I had grown so familiar with. I quickly moved away from Steve which possibly gave the impression I had something to hide, but Ben needed no excuses, it was Christmas day, why had I been so naive, it was inevitable I was going to be punished at some point, he’d been drinking which would always make things worse. To be honest he could be violent without the drink too.
Ben came up beside me and whispered, ‘stupid slut’. I was terrified and considered running out of the house knowing what was coming but I couldn’t, our baby was asleep upstairs. That Christmas evening, Ben raped me, broke my nose and jaw and left me with such bad bruising I could barely open my eyes. I’d never have reported it but our neighbours from the other side heard the commotion and phoned 999.
Ben was arrested, and I was taken to hospital. The officers wanted a statement. They were nice, and I felt terrible for refusing but I was so frightened, I never mentioned the rape to them.
The police went ahead with a victimless prosecution. This meant they would take Ben to court without my cooperation. The neighbours who phoned in gave statements about hearing me scream, Ben was still in the house, angry and drunk when police arrived, and they told me he and his clothing were covered in my blood. Ben was convicted at court and sentenced to 5 years, there was also a restraining order protecting me from him when he was released.
Christmas time is peaceful for me now, just me and 7-year-old Harry. I wouldn’t say I enjoy it though, I’m still haunted by the past. My scars have long since healed, but the emotional pain is still there. I have a few good friends and I’m working on my confidence and self-esteem. My GP has referred me for counselling and I know that with a bit of help, I can make things better, I need to for myself and to be the best mum I can be for Harry. He only has one parent now.”
This is an all too familiar face of Christmas. At Broxtowe Women’s Project, we see our referrals rise following the festive season. If you find yourself dreading the upcoming festivities because of fear of intensified domestic abuse, then you’re most certainly in the wrong relationship. Walking away is not always easy, neither is reporting assaults to the police. At Broxtowe Women’s Project we understand this. We will listen, never judge, and always work to your agenda.
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