Christmas holidays are a time most people associate with happiness, gift giving and family. For many the thought of the holidays brings up happy memories and feelings of joy. December is filled with shopping and Christmas celebrations. This is the time of year anticipated with excitement.
But for many this is far from the reality of their life. For people in an abusive relationship Christmas can be the most stressful time of the year. Violence often increases due to the added stress that Christmas brings.
- There is the financial burden of trying to provide presents for the children when often access to money is limited.
- Spending extra time together creates extra strain. It is hard enough jumping through the hoops needed to keep an abuser happy when there is some down time. The intensity of the holidays can push the victim to breaking point.
- Time spent with extended family. Pretending everything is okay is exhausting especially in front of the people who know you best. Abusers prefer their partner isolated as this makes them easier to control, so this family time will aggravate the abuser.
- Alcohol, although alcohol is not the whole picture of an abusive relationship. It is like a spark to a fire given the extra pressure of Christmas.
At this time of year, there are more phone calls to helplines that are already pushed to their limit. This year the situation is worse. When a person in need calls the national helpline – 1800 RESPECT – they are no longer put through to a trained counsellor. Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia no longer answer the calls under the Federal governments changes that were introduced earlier this year. These phone calls now lay in the hands of Medibank Health Solutions, who have put a triage system in place. In this system, someone unqualified to make the decision will decide whether a call gets put through to a counsellor, or whether the victim is referred to overworked support services or sent to a website to receive more information.
This system worries me because those being abused are usually confused and have little understanding of the gravity of their situation. Imagine finally finding the courage to speak up and being direct to a website. Having been there this literally makes me shudder. 1800 RESPECT is the first contact for many people. The fact that although all first responders receive SOME training, is not comforting to me. Domestic violence is a complex and complicated issue and the thought of someone inexperienced and lacking a true breadth of knowledge is frankly not good enough.
If you need support ring 1800 RESPECT but remember if you are not satisfied with the outcome there are other avenues you can take. Because you deserve to safe. Check out these websites in your state
This list is by no means an exhaustive. Remember safety is the most important thing. Intimate Partner Violence can escalate at Christmas even if you are separated from your partner. If you feel unsafe talk to your loved ones you know you can trust. Phone the helplines for guidance. Call 000 if you are in danger. If coping and staying safe is all you can do, feel proud you are putting one foot in front of the other and remember there are services and people out there to support you.