Domestic abuse and sexual violence will not go away over this festive period the Welsh Government and the four Police forces in Wales warn.
Times of crisis can result in an increase in incidents of domestic violence, and Christmas and the holiday period may be a time of dread, fear and isolation for victims of violence and abuse.
While Covid-19 and restrictions have not caused domestic abuse to happen, evidence shows that being shut behind closed doors with abusers, 24 hours a day, has made things worse, and increased the risk to victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence.
The Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, today asked friends and neighbours to look out for signs of domestic abuse, and encouraged victims and survivors to seek help and escape from their homes if necessary.
Jane Hutt said: “Now, more than ever, I urge communities, friends, neighbours, postal workers and delivery drivers across Wales to look out for others in the community, and to act as the eyes and ears for victims of abuse who need help. Please look behind the Christmas lights and present deliveries, and if you see fear in the eyes the other side of the door, you can help by calling 999 in an emergency, or the Live Fear Free helpline. You could be saving a life.
“Specialist services remain open and are available to help victims of violence or abuse throughout the Christmas period, and during the period of restrictions which will follow. Perpetrator services, which work to prevent incidents of domestic abuse from happening, also remain open and will continue to provide support.
“You will not be in trouble if you need to leave your home to seek help at any time, and specialist services are open and operating, refuges will take referrals, and support is available to help you.
“I want to emphasise this – if you are in danger or need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse, you should do so – you will not be in trouble. You can travel wherever necessary, and specialist services can help find you suitable emergency accommodation and support.
“Police forces right across Wales are responding to domestic abuse and sexual violence callouts. If is not safe for victims to speak, police will respond to a silent 999 call – dial 999, followed by 55 when the operator answers to indicate that you can’t talk, but need help.
“The Live Fear Free helpline is open 24 hours a day, every day, including Christmas and the New Year, for support and advice. Home shouldn’t be a place of fear. Support is available. You are not alone.”
Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, Alun Michael, said: “We know that incidents of domestic violence and abuse increase at times when families and couples spend more time together at home.
“So, while many of us are looking forward to the opportunity to form a ‘Christmas bubble’ with loved ones, even if we can only catch up virtually, for others the festive period means spending even more time with a partner or family member who causes them harm.
“We want you to know that the Police and Welsh Government are united in tackling the problem vigorously, even during the holiday period and even during the Pandemic.”
South Wales Police Chief Constable, Jeremy Vaughan, said: “If you are hurting your partner, child or another family member, I urge you to get help to change your behaviour because we will not tolerate domestic violence and abuse.
“Protecting vulnerable people is our number one priority, and despite the challenges the coronavirus crisis has presented, I want to reassure our communities that we are still responding to incidents, we are still arresting abusers, and we are still charging abusers.
“We know it can be difficult to talk about what is happening behind closed doors, however if you can take that first step and contact the police or the Live Fear Free service, we will work with you to keep you safe.”
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Jeff Cuthbert, said: “Sadly we know that Christmas can be a time of fear for many.
“This year we are particularly concerned as we know that cases of rape, sexual violence and domestic abuse have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If you are experiencing abuse, or suspect someone you know is being abused, then please don’t suffer in silence; help is available. I would urge you to call the Live Fear Free helpline, and always call 999 in an emergency.”