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For most people Christmas and New Year is a time to spend quality time with family and friends. For others it can be the most feared time of the whole year.
For those already living in the shadow of domestic abuse, the combination of spending a lot of time together over the festive period, financial pressure and, perhaps, additional alcohol, the risk of abuse can increase.
Cheshire Police is urging friends and families of victims of domestic abuse to open the door and speak out with a resolution to change their lives for the better. Open The Door is a Cheshire-wide campaign which aims to encourage victims, friends and families to seek support for domestic abuse. Friends and family members can often spot the signs but are unsure how to broach the subject. Open The Door raises awareness and shows people how to recognise the signs, know what to do and have the confidence to take action.
David Keane, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, is spearheading the county-wide Open The Door campaign to challenge domestic abuse. He said: “It’s heart-breaking to think that not all families will be celebrating this Christmas, but will instead be suffering at the hands of their abusive partner, living in isolation and fear.
“For those who experience domestic abuse and who are already living in fear and anxiety, tensions can increase and quickly escalate when families spend more time together at this time of the year."
“Family members and close friends can often see when a relationship is not healthy and I would encourage everyone to understand how to spot the signs and have a supportive conversation with the person they are worried about. We know that victims, both men and women, often suffer in silence for the sake of their families so that they don’t spoil Christmas for everyone else. However, as friends and families spend more time together at this time of the year, they will have the opportunity to spot warning signs and help them speak out."
Domestic abuse doesn’t have to stay behind closed doors. Open The Door is there to help people get the help they need and to bring this hidden crime out into the open. Early intervention is key in preventing the devastation suffered by not only the immediate victims but to their children which is why everyone has a responsibility to bring domestic abuse out into the open.
Superintendent Peter Shaw of the Constabulary’s Public Protection Directorate added: "Christmas should be a time for celebration, but this time of year can be one of the hardest for victims of domestic abuse. Nobody should have to endure the pain and suffering of domestic abuse and I would say to all victims that now is the time to be brave, have a fresh start and begin the year by speaking out and putting a stop to it."
“Our officers are here to help but we understand that some people may find it difficult to speak to a police officer which is why we are supporting the Open The Door campaign.”
Domestic abuse, whether it’s emotional, psychological or physical abuse, affects people regardless of gender, social group, class, age, race, religion, disability, sexuality or lifestyle and can begin at any time whether in a new relationship or after many years together.
If you are concerned a family member or friend is a victim of domestic abuse, there are warning signs to look out for which include:
Don’t ignore your intuition, if you think something isn’t right, do something about it – have that conversation and find out what you can do to provide support. For more information visit www.openthedoorcheshire.org.uk
Reports of domestic abuse can often increase over the Christmas and New Year period; last year officers supported more than 2603 victims.