PEOPLE are being asked to keep to themselves as much as possible this Christmas and to keep mixing among different households to a minimum. Most sensible people will obey the public health advice and others won’t, but with the ‘wet pubs’ closed there will inevitably be more people drinking at home and this can often lead to tensions in households.
During the lockdowns this year, because people were mainly confined to home, excessive drinking in some households led to domestic violence and it was difficult for injured parties to get away from coercive control. And, it was not just alcohol that led to such turmoil; some of the perpetrators had a propensity for using violence and intimidation to get their way.
Most of the victims of such abuse tend to be women and children and the West Cork Women Against Violence (WCWAV) group reported that a total of 108 women contacted them looking for help in the six months from March to August, inclusive. That was a 35% increase in calls to the Bantry-based group and was in addition to the 203 women they were already helping.
Last month, a joint policing meeting in Cork heard of a 28% increase over last year in domestic violence reports (287 incidents) in the Cork West Garda division, which now has a Protective Services Unit (PSU) based in Dunmanway to respond to reports of such incidents and to assist victims to find safe havens. Its presence there, with specially-trained members, has greatly increased the Gardaí’s responsiveness and also proven a great source of help and back-up to the work of organisations such as WCAV, whose resources are stretched.
Drinkaware CEO Sheena Horgan, conscious that tensions are understandably high at the moment and, inevitably, will rise further as we get closer to Christmas, said that we need to find healthy ways to cope with that stress and uncertainty: ‘For parents, this is a double-edged sword as many are experiencing heightened stress and are also the main role models for their children when it comes to demonstrating healthy coping, and alcohol consumption behaviours.
‘Binge drinking not only impacts their health and wellbeing, and exacerbates anxiety and depression, but also negatively impacts others in the home. Children and teenagers learn from the example set by their parents and other adult family members.’
So, households thrown together at Christmas in close quarters need to seek out healthy coping mechanisms that don’t involve alcohol or other drugs. We can all get on together in the bosom of our families if everybody makes the required effort.
If you are in an abusive relationship, contact the 24/7 Women’s Aid helpline 1800 341900 or the West Cork Women Against Violence helpline on 1800 203136; you do not need to have credit in your phone as calls to both are free.
All of us, as a community, need to be alert about domestic violence; call the Gardaí if you have any concerns about a neighbour, family relative or friend. Do not be afraid of being wrong; be afraid of being right and not having done anything about it.