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More Domestic Violence Victims Are Reaching Out To Services Before Christmas

And the numbers keep rising until late January.

22/12/2016 3:10 PM AEDT | Updated 24/12/2016 11:35 AM AEDT
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'We sort of have this vision of Christmas being a beautiful time where families come together but that's not always the case.'

Christmas time always brings increased pressure on domestic violence services around the country as more victims reach out for help during the holidays, but Women's Community Shelters NSW has seen an increase even earlier in 2016.

The not-for-profit frontline service which provides short term housing for women fleeing violent homes usually notices the rise in calls in mid-December but the increase began in November this year.

Women's Community Shelter CEO Annabelle Daniel said the increased number of calls to the four shelters across the state show domestic and family violence continues to remain epidemic.

"Usually around mid-December the calls start to increase from three or four women a day to ten women a day, but this year in particular we have seen an increase earlier, at the end of November," Daniel told The Huffington Post Australia.

The way that Christmas plays out is like a hallmark moment, but for a number of families its not that way -- and that can be especially challenging.Annabelle Daniel

Daniel said a combination of family pressures contribute to the rise of calls to services, which can be financial or prompted by simply dealing with the irony of a traditionally happy time.

"The way that Christmas plays out is like a hallmark moment, but for a number of families it's not that way -- and that can be especially challenging," Daniel said.

"Sometimes that's when things can spill over."

Domestic Violence NSW CEO Moo Baulch told HuffPost Australia services in the sector always deal with a rise in the number of calls during the festive season but increased awareness of the issue has encouraged more victims to come forward.

"Services know that this is a busy time of year so they manage their resources accordingly from November onwards," Baulch said.

"Anecdotally, there's a real wave of women leaving violent situations mid to late January when kids go back to school. Women hold together very difficult situations and when kids go back to school that can be a time when women say 'I can't do this any longer, I've got to get out.' It's a very busy time for services."

A boost in government funding has not occurred, but in the case of Women's Community Shelters, donations have increased in preparation for Christmas.

"We've been really heartened to see the amount of community funding and philanthropy," Daniel said.

Women's Community Shelters keep up to 50 women and children safe each night and provide an additional 35,000 beds to the sector. The not-for-profit welcomes fundraising donations from clothing items and goods or funds to help their staff reach more women.

It's a really tough time for many people, Christmas. We sort of have this vision of Christmas being a beautiful time where families come together but that's not always the case.Moo Baulch

So if you're wanting to help, you can make a donation to a local domestic violence support service or simply have a conversation if you're concerned about someone.

"If you're concerned about somebody, you can call 1800 RESPECT and have a conversation with them and ask what it is that you can do to help in that set of circumstances," Baulch said.

"Or if you're spending time with family or friends over the Christmas, New Year period, have a conversation with them. Have a chat and say 'I'm concerned. I feel like everything is not okay. Is there something I can do to support you?"

"It's that really direct support. It might be offering somewhere to stay for a few days, or money to tie them over to get to the next place. Or someone to take them to the police or the domestic violence service.

"It's a really tough time for many people, Christmas. We sort of have this vision of Christmas being a beautiful time where families come together but that's not always the case."

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.

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