The UK’s largest domestic violence charity, Refuge, have launched a Christmas campaign to raise awareness of the terrible reality many women and children face when living with an abuser, particularly over the Christmas period.
The charity has released a series of hard-hitting poems that when read one way tell a happy Christmas story, but when read in reverse, reveal a hidden depiction of life with an abuser. Two of the poems are told from the perspective of female victims and the third is told from a child’s perspective who has witnessed domestic violence at Christmas.
The poems aim to highlight the growing epidemic of domestic abuse in the UK, that often goes under reported during the festive season. Each week in the UK, two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner in England and Wales, and three women commit suicide as a way of escaping abuse. One in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
Police have reported a 23% rise in reported domestic abuse cases, however there was a drop in subsequent prosecutions. More than 50% of reported abuse incidents did not result in an arrest. The Crime Survey defines domestic abuse as ‘people who have ever experienced a single incident of physical violence from an intimate partner or family member’. However, this does not reflect other types of ongoing domestic abuse such as controlling and manipulative behaviour.
Domestic abuse is not a specific crime, but perpetrators will usually commit a criminal offence against their victims. These range from rape and sexual assault to harassment and stalking. If the abuser is charged with a criminal offence, they will be required to attend court to hear the case against them. If the abuser is then found guilty, the Crown Prosecution Service may request a restraining order, which will prevent the abuser from contacting the victim or from visiting the victim at home or at their place of work. Civil law can also help protect victims of domestic abuse by allowing them to assert their legal rights. Under civil law victims can apply for a divorce, a child arrangement order or a prohibited steps order, among other things.
Refuge want to highlight different kinds of abuse that women and children might face, and to raise awareness of the support that is available to women and children at Christmas, or at any time of the year. The charity is currently supporting over 6,800 survivors of abuse and are available to contact on their free 24-hour helpline on 0808 2000 247. More resources are available from the government website for victims seeking help.
Preston Redman are a member on the panel for the National Centre for Domestic Violence and can offer legal support and guidance through such a distressing time. For assistance, call Liz Coubrough on 01202 292 424 or alternatively use our enquiry form at the top of this page.