Assaults at home mar buildup to Christmas

00:00, Dec 21 2012

The women's refuge is dealing with an unusual number of vicious, violent assaults in the lead-up to Christmas.

Nelson Women's and Children's Refuge manager Trudie Brand said the service had dealt with women who had been the victims of nasty beatings during the past three weekends.

The women had suffered black eyes, cracked ribs, fractured arms and broken eye sockets.

"Twelve days of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . four screaming matches, three threatening text messages, two cracked ribs, one black eye, and a breach of a parenting order so the children are not with me," she said.

Ms Brand said this period was usually the busiest time of the year for the refuge, but this year demand had started early.

"The other night we had five calls on Thursday - which was a busy night - a couple of them were quite serious assaults."


Families usually held it together before Christmas for the children's sake, and in the new year period reached a point where they had enough.

This was when financial pressures kicked in, the parties were over and parents were stressed with having their children at home.

It was the fifth Christmas she had worked at the refuge and the number of violent attacks during the past three weekends before the holiday period was unprecedented, she said.

"It's really strange, I don't actually know what Christmas will be like this year."

She believed the assaults were stress related and most of the alleged offenders had not had alcohol in their system.

"One was quite intoxicated, whereas the others are more about stress and whose going to have the kids and financial pressures because they cannot afford to do what they were planning."

Two years ago the refuge had been busy due to effects from the recession and people being made redundant, but this year was different.

She said while most of the mainstream organisations closed over the Christmas period it was a busy time for the refuge.

It would have its 24-hour crisis service available on 0800 16 33 44.

"While most people are looking forward to the upcoming holiday season, sadly for some women and their children it is a time of fear and deprivation."

Ms Brand said economic and emotional abuse was hard to understand as it is was less visible than bruises and broken bones.

"However, many women take too lightly the effect of vicious put-downs, threats, living in fear and being under strict financial control by their partners.

"It is this behaviour that can mean a woman has no control over money in the household and might end up stealing or begging her friends for basic products. This is no way to feel at any time of the year, let alone Christmas and the holiday season."

Ms Brand said the Christmas period was also a time when children were caught in the crossfire.

"Christmas is about family and giving and they are only too aware that their family is broken."

She said if people wanted to help the refuge, but were unsure how, volunteering was one of the most valuable donations that could be made. Volunteers were needed for its crisis line.

"If you are able to listen, are non-judgmental, keen to learn, support women's and children's rights, able to make a regular time commitment and have a full driver's licence, then please contact Nelson Women's and Children's Refuge on 548 3353. Full training and support will be provided."


- Stress is not an excuse for family violence, but it can cause abuse to escalate. Try to stress less this Christmas. Let family and friends help.

- Plan – make a budget for the holiday season and plan activities for your children.

- Set a spending limit on gifts, or have a secret Santa draw with a set dollar amount on presents.

- Consider a pot luck Christmas meal. If you are managing a blended family, organise Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year contacts between ex-partners and children now.

- Try to set a limit on how much you drink, plan alcohol-free days, and do not drink and drive.

- Believe and support women. Do not tell them what to do, but encourage them to seek help.

- Nelson Women's and Children's Refuge can be reached on 0800 16 33 44 – 24/7, even on Christmas Day.

- If you believe a woman or child is in danger, or suffering from abuse, call the police on 111.

- It's OK to help or ask for help. Women's Refuge services are confidential and non-judgmental. Women don't have to come into the safe house – they can talk over the phone, or be met somewhere safe.

The Nelson Mail