Keeping violence at Bay at Christmas

By Sam Boyer

For many women and children in the Western Bay, the Christmas period will unfortunately be as much about fear and pain as it is about gifts and the meal.

Every year the festive season corresponds with a marked spike in domestic violence cases.

Family therapist Les Simmonds, Relationship Services clinical leader for Bay of Plenty and Gisborne, said there were a number of reasons for more violence through the holidays, most of them stemming from stress. "Christmas is a time that can turn stressful for a lot of couples. You certainly get a lot more domestic violence in the holidays, particularly around Christmas.

"One very big reason is people tend to drink a lot more, and parties going late into the night because people don't have to go to work in the morning, that pays a huge part. And people that usually spend a few hours together each day, they spend a lot of time together. Time is a big thing.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

"On top of all that there's stresses about money and the kids are at home.

You get more conflict between couples and the drinking just blows the top off," he said.

It's not until after the festivities are over, though, that counselling services find out about abusive relationships.

"There's an interesting pattern, what you get is just around the Christmas period and after, things might get quite quiet. [But] after the hangover, a few weeks after Christmas, then we start to see a rise in referrals. People start to think maybe, 'That's the worst Christmas ever, he hurt me, I'm not having that again,"' Mr Simmonds said.

Rob McCann, White Ribbon campaign manager with the Families Commission, said there were things people could do to ensure violence is avoided in their home.

"Around this time there's an increase in family violence. The reality is that family violence can increase with certain triggers, and one of those is stress. We don't always get to choose who your family is and those people are coming into your home. [And] it's fair to say that people are looking at different ways to do things for less. People shouldn't be violent because of the stress, but it is a trigger," he said.

Detective Sergeant Jason Perry, Tauranga family violence co-ordinator, said violence at Christmas-time was avoidable and there were ways to get help. "Essentially we encourage people to call before something happens. Neighbours, friends and families will call and that's a good thing."

He added a sure-fire way to prevent abuse: "Keep your hands in your pockets, take a deep breath and go for a walk."

Police advice

  • Agree on social and family arrangements in advance and stick to the agreed plans. Make sure children get to spend quality time with both parents if there is shared custody.

  • Don't spend what you can't afford.

  • If you are finding the whole idea of Christmas too stressful, talk to a friend or someone you can trust.

  • Think of the children. Don't let them grow up with memories of Christmas tarnished with violence.

  • Go easy on the alcohol.

  • If an argument starts to brew, take a deep breath and walk away. Take time out to let everyone calm down and if necessary, sober up.

  • If you have real concerns for your safety or that of your children, contact the police.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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