The image of Christmas is families getting together to enjoy the celebrations – opening presents and gathering round the table for a special meal, all to a backdrop of laughter and good cheer.
But, for some, the festive period is a nightmare to be endured. A time when their partner or parent has more time to spend in the home, with more opportunity to make them the target for physical and emotional abuse.
What value new toys from Santa when children have to watch dad hitting mum, or belittling her efforts to make this a happy time for everyone.
Shock figures from Central Scotland Police reveal that since the start of April officers have already dealt with 1356 domestic incidents in the Falkirk Area Command. Of these, 921 have involved children.
Behind the figures are individual tales of human tragedy.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said that violence against women is “perhaps the most shameful human rights violation, and it is perhaps the most pervasive”.
He added: “It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth.
“As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace.”
However, help is available for victims thanks to the lifeline offered by the charity Women’s Aid.
This Christmas the Falkirk and District service has launched a new out of hours crisis telephone support service which will be available at weekends and on public holidays, including the festive period.
By ringing (01324) 692021 calls will be put through to someone who can provide a listening ear and offer support. It can also be accessed by e-mailing email@example.com or using the text phone number 0780 575 7493.
It is available from 5 p.m. on Friday to 9 a.m. on Monday and from 5 p.m. the day before a public holiday to 9 a.m. the morning after.
Manager Chris Murphy said: “People are often suffering stress at this time of year. However, people are more likely to leave an abusive relationship in the New Year. At this time, they are more likely to try to remain in often very difficult situations, particularly if they have children.
“It can be very difficult to move forward, particularly if they are leaving a long-term relationship and there can also be concerns about the impact it might have on children. There can be fears about becoming homeless, the thought of having no money, moving schools for children and even leaving the area where they have been living.
“It can never be underestimated what a massive step this is and how really hard it can be for women.”
She added that Women’s Aid was always there to offer support with all the difficult challenges “but never to judge them or make suggestions about what they need to do”.
Falkirk and District Women’s Aid has both male and female staff, as well as working with abuse victims, they also offer support for children and young people affected by the issue.
Chris said: “Most perpatrators of domestic abuse are men, but most men are not perpetrators. It is particularly important for children to see positive role models from men.”
Its office at Unit 6, Callendar Business Park, is open Monday-Wednesday and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays.
The charity works closely with a number of partners, including Falkirk Council, NHS Forth Valley, Falkirk Domestic Abuse Forum and the police.
Detective Sergeant Ewan Wilson, of the Central Scotland force’s domestic abuse unit, said: “Our staff refer victims from the Falkirk area to Women’s Aid Falkirk on a regular basis and they have been an excellent support to vulnerable victims, providing them with advice, security, counselling and, where possible, safe accomodation.
“The service provided to victims and Central Scotland Police by Women’s Aid in Falkirk is invaluable and feedback from victims, who have been referred to them, has been largely positive.
“Women’s Aid Falkirk has assisted a great number of victims over the years and improved the lives of many.”