Christmas, for most people, is the season to share the love of family and be jolly.
But for a growing number of Australian women it ends up being a period of stress, pain and even death as a result of a spike in festive season domestic violence.
According to Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, which runs the NSW 1800Respect counselling line, domestic violence rates tend to rise over Christmas triggered by increased alcohol abuse and financial stresses.
Last Christmas/New Year break 74 women across Australia reached out to rape and domestic violence support services every day.
Between December 21 and January 3, Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia assisted 1043 individual clients across its three telephone services – a 32 per cent increase on the same period last year.
There was also a 22 per cent rise in the number of calls answered by its crisis counsellors.
The service runs the NSW Rape Crisis Centre as well as 1800RESPECT around the clock as well as Sexual Assault Counselling Australia.
CEO of Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia Karen Willis said domestic violence tended to increase over the Christmas period.
She confirmed many callers were women experiencing domestic violence inside the family home. Crisis counselling was also provided to female victims of rape and indecent assaults at end-of-year work functions, Christmas parties and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
“Increased community discussion surrounding sexual assault and domestic violence is definitely leading to more women coming forward,” Ms Willis said.
“We will certainly have nonstop calls around domestic violence that’s occurred around that period of time and police from three o’clock on Christmas Day in the afternoon, their calls just go manic as well.
“We will have 200 shifts, eight hours each, on every week over this period and we know that we’re not going to get anywhere near answering every single call to the service.”