Domestic abuse victims are being encouraged to seek available help over the festive period as data shows how such incidents continue to blight families across Yorkshire at Christmas.
A regional expert has said that some people affected by abusive and controlling relationships try to “hold it together” over the holidays – but can expect a spike in people contacting services in the new year as festivities cease.
Police forces in Yorkshire continue to handle hundreds of domestic-related crimes on Christmas, figures from last year show.
Disclosure logs of a Freedom of Information request to West Yorkshire Police probing the number of “domestic related incidents” on December 25, 2017, show that 211 reports were made.
In North Yorkshire, at least 36 were reported. And although the same figures are not available from South Yorkshire Police, statistics show that between December 5 and December 31, 2017, more than 1,196 reports were made. Similar figures for Humberside Police were unavailable.
Nik Peasgood, the chief executive officer of Leeds Women’s Aid, said that calls to the helpline reduce in the lead-up to Christmas but then “massively increase” just after new year.
For example, between November 27 and December 3 last year, there were 91 calls, but it dropped to 22 between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.
Between January 22 and 28 this year, there were 137 calls. Ms Peasgood said while there is no decrease in such incidents at Christmas – it can actually “accelerate” – they go unreported because “they do want to hold it together for the children or sake of family members in the hope that it’s better than if they weren’t all together”.
She added that the holiday period “won’t create something where there’s no abuse, but those heightened situations create tensions that can make [existing] abuse even worse”.
With coercive behaviour now being part of formal definitions of domestic abuse, Ms Peasgood says that some people do not realise they are affected by it.
She adds that there is no pressure for anyone who gets in touch to leave their home – contact can be made simply to talk, find out about options or, if desired, make a plan for future escape.
A number of domestic abuse services are open for contact over Christmas.
Women’s Aid Leeds has made staff available over the festive period. Ms Peasgood said its helpline on 0113 246 0401 is open “24 hours a day, so if you are scared, hurt or just want to talk, even if it’s at 10pm at night on Christmas Day then call us”.
The 24-hour National Domestic Violence helpline is 0808 2000 247.