So how was your Christmas? …
Was it a picture-perfect family celebration with everybody getting along famously all day? Or did the children fight all afternoon while Grandma fell asleep on the TV remote, the dog threw up on the carpet, and you burnt the roast potatoes?! Christmas can be a stressful time, and it doesn’t always live up to the glossy images in the magazines or the television advertisements.
For some people though Christmas really is a difficult time. Festive demands on the budget can lead to debt, and spending more time together over the holiday, coupled with excessive drinking perhaps, can lead to tensions within the family. It’s no surprise therefore that domestic violence peaks during the ‘season of goodwill’.
Often abuse – physical, psychological, emotional or financial – which may have been building for some time, comes to a head at Christmas, and abuse between partners or family members may be impossible to hide from others at this time.
Domestic violence is no respecter of gender, class or indeed age. You might imagine, that older, longstanding couples would be immune, but Joan would tell a different story:
Joan had been married to Bill* for 47 years when she visited her local Citizens Advice. Bill had always been what Joan would describe as very ‘set in his ways’ and friends and family often jokingly referred to him as the original ‘grumpy old man’. Since the children had grown up and made homes of their own, the couple had never hosted Christmas – Bill preferred to visit his children in turn for a couple of hours over lunch and then return home – so Joan was delighted with her plan this year to have all the family round under one roof for the whole day. And, although Bill was his usual reserved self, Joan really enjoyed herself!
But, when everyone had left, Bill made his feelings known. He turned on Joan, accusing her of undermining him, disregarding his feelings, and being reckless with their money. He refused to speak to Joan for the rest of the following week and cancelled their few social arrangements for the rest of the holiday. When Joan tried to phone their son, he grabbed the phone from her hand and slapped her. She was shocked and frightened, although, to be honest, it wasn’t the first time he had displayed this behaviour.
But something had changed! Whether it was because Christmas was supposed to be a happy time, or whether Joan had realised that one incident was just one too many, Joan decided she’d had enough and found herself visiting her local Citizens Advice for help.
Citizens Advice were able to:
• offer to put her in touch with a local domestic abuse outreach service who could offer practical support and information.
• they were also able to offer Joan a free, short, introductory appointment with a family solicitor to discuss her options, and they could
• talk through the implications and procedure for separation, using the comprehensive information on their website www.citizensadvice.org.uk
So, if the Christmas season has highlighted some recurring abusive behaviour in your family, Citizens Advice may be able to provide that all-important confidential first step to find a way forward. Citizens Advice won’t tell you what to do, rather they will help you decide what your priorities are and signpost the services that can help you progress.
*Names have been changed for reasons of confidentiality.
If you or your family are worried about domestic abuse or something else. Don’t put it off – Citizens Advice Waverley can almost certainly help. For free, independent, confidential advice call:
0344 848 7969
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