What will you get for Christmas?

First published 22nd December 2015

A horrific story was reported earlier this week. The headline read, Domestic Abuse Police nearly overwhelmed by increase.

The story went on to explain that between 2013 and 2015 there had been a staggering 31% increase in recorded cases. Even taking into consideration the fact that the way in which these crimes are recorded has changed, it is clear that domestic violence is on the increase.

Zoe Billingham, HM Inspector of Constabulary, who prepared the report, noted significant weaknesses in the service the police gave to victims of domestic violence. That said, I have some sympathy with our police. It seems that more and more is asked of them, but with less resource to meet the demands. Changed working practices can help up to a point but basic financial resources are also required.

Christmas is just around the corner and widely marketed as a time for the family. It is sadly now well documented that the number of couples separating surges upwards over the holiday period. My guess is that behind those statistics the incidence of domestic violence also increases. Put together a busy time with added stress, financial challenges, time spent together with family, and alcohol, and you create the perfect storm for domestic violence to occur.

You can make all the excuses you like, but attacking your partner (much more likely to be a man attacking a woman, but not exclusively so) is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE, so let me be clear on that: There is no excuse, be that physical violence or the dripping tap of psychological and emotional abuse. It is simply unacceptable and what seems really frightening is that most of the attacks are not one offs. People who do it once are more likely to attack again and again.

If this article makes just one reader think again and not attack their partner either physically or psychologically, it will have been worth the effort. This is 2015 and still two women a week are killed by a former or current partner according to Womens Aid.

I want to appeal to you, if you are a perpetrator of domestic violence, to get some help. If tempted to attack, get out of the house until you have regained some control. Why should anyone have to live with you and yet live in fear of you? The thought of it is, frankly, sickening.

If there are children in the home, think very hard about the impact of your abusive behaviour upon them. Much child learning is imitation. Home is where they are, in part meant to learn about healthy relationships. The way a child observes you behave with your partner will have an influence upon them in the future.

Dont tell me that you want the best for your kids and then subject them to having to watch your violence or listen to your poisonous tongue. It doesnt wash!

Recently, I watched a tragic YouTube clip of a young woman who had been mercilessly beaten by her male partner. At one point, the interviewer asked the young woman why she had not chosen to leave the home. In a way its a pretty obvious question. I found her answer compelling.

She said: When people ask me this, I simply say to them, why didnt he choose to stop attacking me? The point is clear. No-one has to make the choice to attack their partner. As for the idea that such behaviour is masculine well, its just pathetic. Not to make light of it, but as Zsa Zsa Gabor once famously commented: Macho doesnt prove mucho!

Christmas is the time when we celebrate the coming to Earth of the Prince of Peace. The season holds out the possibility of great fun, of good times with family (for those blessed with a family), and it is a time we associate with goodwill.

Sadly it also carries some lurking dangers violence, separation, depression and chronic loneliness. Being mindful of these threats, in itself, will not necessarily mean that we shall avoid them. To do so, we often need to do something too. But if awareness makes us think again before we act, then the likelihood is that we will make our contribution to what hopefully, really will be a joyful time.

May I take this opportunity to wish you a very Happy Christmas. Think before you act and it might be genuinely happy for all!

This article was originally published in the Western Daily Press.

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