Warning that domestic violence can rise after Christmas, as charity aims to support more victims
The chief executive of a domestic abuse charity has warned that cases of domestic violence can rise in January.
Mandy Proctor, CEO of Leeway, said last January their number of service users increased by 20pc compared to December 2015, and they expected similar numbers this year.
She wanted people to be aware of the services available to support them, and that victims did not need to suffer alone.
“At Christmas time a lot of families try to stay together,” said Mrs Proctor, who has been involved in the charity for many years and worked her way up the ranks.
“It’s quite a difficult time of the year, often family might be visiting, it’s quite difficult to disrupt family occasions.
“So we do tend to have people come to us after the Christmas period.”
She said that although domestic violence may not stop over Christmas, victims may not feel it was the right time to do anything about it, but Mrs Proctor encouraged those suffering to still speak out.
“There’s all the eating and drinking and financial pressures, it’s just that people tend to want to wait,” she added.
Now, as demand rises, Leeway is looking to up their profile to make sure all those who need to access their services know they are available.
Since beginning in 1973, Leeway now has five safe houses and a team of more than 50 people providing advice, support and information to any adult or child experiencing domestic abuse in Norfolk and Waveney.
And Ms Proctor said as they looked to expand they hoped they could help even more people.
One woman who benefitted from contacting Leeway was Becky List. She said: “I broke free in 2011 and I’m proud to say I’m a domestic abuse survivor.
“Leeway is an incredibly important charity to reach out to those who are suffering in silence, they provide a safety net to all those trying to break free. Leeway believed in me, spoke to me like a human being and listened.
“When you’re going through domestic violence it’s hard to find people around you who actually listen to what you’re really telling them. Leeway did that for me.”
• For free, confidential support call Leeway, 24 hours a day, on 0300 561 0077 or email email@example.com. If you are in immediate danger, call 999.
Chrissie Jackson, from BBC Radio Norfolk, said: “Domestic abuse is an issue that affects one in three women and one in five men throughout their lives and affects people from every ethnic background and level of society. For this reason, it is really important for me to support Leeway not only because of the fantastic services provided by their staff, but also to raise awareness for an issue that is not well understood by much of the public.”
ITV News journalist Nina Nannar said: “I feel privileged to have been asked to support an organisation that tackles the issue of domestic abuse – which has too long remained hidden and blights the lives of so many people here in Norfolk and Waveney.
“People need to know that help is available to them and if I can help in any way with this – then it’s a real honour to be able to do so. Domestic abuse can take many forms, both physical and mental, and it affects not just the victim, but the wider circle of family and friends and the scars can last a lifetime, especially for children caught up in this terrible issue. That is why the work Leeway does is so important.”
Message from the police
Norfolk Police’s Detective Superintendent Julie Wvendth said they domestic abuse typically rises during the festive period, even if people may not seek help straight away.
She said: “It is often a combination of financial pressures, increased time spent with family and alcohol consumption that escalates tensions at home, and whilst the figures of reported crimes are staggering they also show that victims are speaking up to stop the abuse.
“Victims of domestic abuse are of all ages, gender, ethnicity, culture and sexuality, and I would like to reiterate to victims that it is not their fault, that they are not alone and they can take steps to stop it. We also want to encourage others who may be aware of abuse against their friends, family or neighbours to report it.
“We have highly trained officers to help protect victims, but we understand that people don’t always want to approach the police in the first instance. Please don’t suffer in silence – we work in partnership with a number of services, which can all provide advice and support to keep the victim safe. These are all listed on our website.”