Belfast Telegraph

20 domestic abuse cases over Christmas - in just one area of Northern Ireland

By Joanne Fleming

There are fears of a rise in domestic abuse over the Christmas period, with 20 incidents recorded in one policing area alone.

Craigavon PSNI reported that between Christmas Eve and December 27 there had been 20 incidents of domestic-related violence, topped only by 22 incidents of general assault.

Recording a "busy few days" for officers on their Facebook page, they said all local custody suites were full by Boxing Day evening.

Police are to compile full statistics on domestic abuse for the Christmas period at a later date, and Women's Aid have warned that the seasonal rise in women reporting domestic violence can happen just after Christmas.

The pressures of the festive season and women trying to keep their families together for Christmas can lead to a spike in calls for help, according to the charity.

Patricia Lynas, chief executive of the Belfast and Lisburn branch, said the figures for those using their refuges over Christmas were as expected.

"Over Christmas we have had about 100 women and 83 children at refuges across Northern Ireland," she said. "The increase can be that week after the holiday and the two to three weeks running up to the season.

"Women try to keep that sense of normality for children at Christmas. They tend not to leave for the sake of the children. They try to manage it.

"Christmas is a time of expectation about family life, and if it is happy and safe that is great. But there can be an expectation about families being together when there is residual violence and fear."

Ms Lynas said alcohol can be a factor perpetrators use to excuse abuse, but added: "You are in charge of your behaviour. We make choices about how we behave."

She said some women try to manage at home over Christmas and plan to use the refuge afterwards.

"The important thing is 999 and the 24-hour helpline (0808 802 1414)," she said.

"If women are afraid, ring 999.

"Women can contact us and arrange a place for us to meet them, even in their own home.

"We have a large outreach service to women and they can get legal advice through a solicitor."

Earlier this month, the PSNI launched a campaign encouraging people to report attacks, called Domestic Abuse Is Wrong, Pick Up The Phone And Make It Stop.

Across Christmas Day and Boxing Day last year, 190 incidents were reported to officers - an average of four an hour.

From Christmas Eve to December 28 last year there were a total of 515 recorded domestic incidents.

Detective Chief Superintendent George Clarke, Head of the PSNI's Public Protection Branch, said: "It is important that anyone who is a victim of domestic abuse knows they should not have to endure this appalling type of behaviour and that there are people who can help them make it stop."

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