Women's Aid ready for helpline deluge
THE PEACE and joy of Christmas tradition simply does not exist for thousands of families across Ireland, Women's Aid said yesterday.
Instead, the opposite is true -- the extra stress of the festive period is triggering more frequent and more severe abuse at home, particularly abuse centred on the control of the household finances.
The Women's Aid helpline, which is open all over Christmas except Christmas Day, is expecting a surge of calls from women who are frightened in their own homes.
One woman, Mary (not her real name), who called the helpline has recently separated from her husband but he is refusing to pay maintenance.
But now he has promised the couple's two girls "the sun, moon and stars" but has told Mary "there will be nothing for them if he can't come back and have Christmas 'as a family'" and "that it is mammy's fault that Santa won't come".
Now Mary can't sleep with the thought of having to face her children on Christmas Day.
Helpline manager Deirdre Campbell said: "Very often, women will try to maintain the peace and quiet and status quo over the Christmas period but what happens is that financial abuse can be manipulated to have a huge impact on the children."
Alcohol, while not responsible for domestic abuse, also acts as a disinhibitor for abusers and may lead to more violent episodes, she said.
The Women's Aid helpline takes 10,000 calls a year and Ms Campbell believes this is only "the tip of the iceberg".
Women's Aid is appealing for donations to help increase the resources of its helpline which is open on 1800 341 900 from 10am to 10pm.