Not all families are happy at Christmas.
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Christmas can be a stressful time anyway; but if you are living with abuse it can be almost unbearable. Domestic abuse is any kind of violence, control, threats, financial abuse or sexual abuse from a partner or ex-partner, or family member. Both men and women can be abusers and survivors; however the majority of abuse is committed by men against women – but services are available for everyone no matter their gender or the relationship to their abuser.
Incidents of domestic abuse rise over the festive period so if you are frightened of someone you love here are some tips on how you can make yourself and your children safer:
1. Follow Your Instincts
You are the expert in your own situation. Difficult as it is, your instincts are usually right. Your abuser might have spent years telling you that you are overreacting or that what is happening is your fault, but often you will have a gut feeling when things become too dangerous for you to stay. Listen to this feeling and get out – don’t talk yourself out of it. If you feel unsafe – even for a moment – do whatever you can to get away.
Call the Police on 999 immediately if you are scared that something might happen to you or your children.
2. Plan In Advance
Try to think in advance what your options are so you don’t have to try to find help at 2am when you’re panicking and the children are frightened. Think about friends or family who might be able to take you in, or find out how to access your local council’s emergency accommodation over Christmas. Hopefully you won’t need it, but if you are prepared mentally then it becomes easier to take action and you will feel more in control.
3. Pack An Emergency Bag
If it is safe for you to do so – that is, if your abuser won’t find it or be suspicious – pack an emergency bag so that if you do have to flee in a hurry you have important things with you. Things such as ID, financial paperwork, and the children’s birth certificates will help practically; while personal things such as toys, a change of clothes, medication, and irreplaceable things like photographs or small family heirlooms will make it easier to cope. Leave this bag with a trusted friend or family member if you can.
4. Get Support
Whether you want to leave or not, do get some support – there are lots of organisations out there who will listen to you and help you stay safe without telling you what to do or judging you if you decide to stay. They can help you make a safety plan; and support you if you need emergency accommodation, legal assistance, or financial help.
Living with, leaving, or recovering from domestic abuse is hard; but do reach out to those who can help you – nobody has to live in fear.
Local Sources Of Support
The Athena Service: 0800 112 4052 www.lewisham.gov.uk/inmyarea/publicsafety/domestic-violence/Pages/Athena-service—run-by-Refuge.aspx
Greenwich Domestic Violence & Abuse Service: 020 8317 8273 www.gdva.org.uk/
The Her Centre: 020 3260 7715 www.hercentre.org/
Victim Support: 020 8776 7071 www.victimsupport.org.uk/
Bromley Women’s Aid: 020 8313 9303 www.bromleywa.org.uk/
Solace Women’s Aid: 020 7593 1290 http://solacewomensaid.org/get-help/southwark/
National helpline: 0808 2000 247 www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/
ABUSE AND VIOLENCE IS NEVER YOUR FAULT
Clare Elcombe Webber
Clare Elcombe Webber was the Domestic Abuse and Violence Against Women & Girls Commissioner for Bromley Council. She has over a decade of front-line experience working with survivors of abuse and now tries to solve some of the bigger problems facing families.