Most of us, when we think of the festive season, think of a time of joy, celebration, and family togetherness. Unfortunately, for victims of family violence it can be a time of increased fear and distress. The statistics show that incidents of family violence increase significantly during the Christmas to New Year holiday period, compared to the rest of the year.
Why does family violence increase at Christmas?
Unfortunately, there are multiple reasons as to why this trend occurs around the Christmas period. Tensions are high as household budgets are strained.
Christmas can be a very stressful time for parents. They are trying to organise Christmas functions, buy Christmas presents, entertain the children now that they are on school holidays – all whilst trying to manage the family’s finances.
It goes without saying that the combination of Christmas parties, time away from work, holidays, will see an increase in levels of alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption is a contributing factor in many cases of family violence.
Spending time with extended family for some is wonderful but for others it can lead to feelings of tension and cause arguments.
At Christmas time, separated families are forced to come together, which again creates tension and people can become highly emotional.
These are only some of the many family violence trigger points caused by the Christmas holiday period.
Early signs of family violence
As we approach the end of the year, it is extremely important to be aware of early signs of family violence.
According to Domestic Violence Victoria, family violence can mean many different things, so it is not always easy to identify if you or someone you know is using abusive, violent, coercive, or controlling behaviours against someone.
You should always be looking out for physical signs of abuse, however, it is important to know that you will not always see bruises and scratches on victims of family violence. There may be other, more subtle signs, including but not limited to:
- A lack of confidence or being unusually quiet;
- They start to isolate themselves, for example, not seeing their family and friends as often as they usually would;
- Their partner often criticises or humiliates them;
- Their partner controls how they spend their money;
- The often talk about their partner’s jealousy or bad temper;
- They seem afraid of their partner;
- They seem withdrawn or anxious.
What can you do about family violence?
How can you help an adult, suffering family violence?
Simply ‘being there’ for someone can make all the difference. If someone opens up to you about domestic violence, you should listen closely and take it very seriously.
You can help that person to recognise that what they are experiencing is abuse and help them make a plan to stay safe. We would suggest you encourage them to seek further support from domestic violence counselling services.
If there is an immediate risk to their safety, call the Police.
Who can help those at risk this Christmas?
Here is a contact list of people who can help if you (or someone you know) is at risk of family violence this Christmas. Make sure important phone contacts are in your phone - and your bag.
- The Police - 000. Some people get nervous about calling the police. The Police are there to protect you and have experience with domestic violence. If you need immediate help, call 000.
- Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre – 1800 015 188
- Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria – 03 8346 5200
- 1800 RESPECT - 1800 737 732. This is the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service
- Department of Health and Human Services Sexual Assault Crisis Line - 1800 806 292. This is open between 5pm weeknights through to 9am the next day and throughout weekends and public holidays.
- The Men’s Referral Service - 1300 766 491. This is a family violence telephone counselling, information and referral service for men wanting to take responsibility for their violent behaviour.
- MensLine Australia - 1300 78 99 78. This provides support to men having relationship problems and men who commit, or experience, domestic violence.
- Services Australia’s (Centrelink) – 132 850. Crisis Payment may help you financially if you’re experiencing domestic violence.
- Lifeline - 13 11 14: For support if you are suffering a personal crisis, you are thinking of suicide or someone close to you is thinking of suicide.
- Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800: A confidential counselling service for young people aged between 5 and 25 – via telephone, email and online chat.
- The Law Institute of Victoria – (03) 9607 9311. May be able to help you with your legal needs if your lawyer is closed for Christmas.
How can a family lawyer help?
If you are experiencing domestic violence, we recommend you organise a confidential meeting with a lawyer from our Family Law team as soon as possible. There are a number of ways our experienced Family Law team can help you deal with family violence. We can help you:
- apply for a Family Violence Intervention Order (commonly known as an IVO). This can be issued by any Magistrate's Court in Victoria.
- develop a plan to leave your partner safely
- help you negotiate separation and divorce.
Our compassionate, supportive approach and extensive experience helping people from all walks of life deal with domestic violence issues are the reasons our clients choose us for this important work.