Domestic violence hits peak at New Year as couples cooped up at home

VICTIMS of domestic violence are at greatest risk around the New Year period, police and Scottish Women's Aid have warned.

Christmas is traditionally seen as the peak time for fights and abuse in the home as families are cooped up together for a long period and a lot of alcohol is consumed.

Strathclyde Police has revealed the number of attacks on New Year's Day is twice as high as on Christmas or Boxing Day, and three times higher than on any other day.

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Lily Greenan, manager of Scottish Women's Aid, said: "It's the day after the biggest night of alcohol consumption of the year and while we know alcohol does not cause domestic violence, it can be a trigger.

"So where domestic abuse is already going on, it is more likely to come to a head. There is also more stuff going on - more people around so there are potentially more witnesses and more people there to intervene and call the police."

She added: "There is probably less opportunity for women to be somewhere else. Her normal routes out at a weekend - she may arrange to be elsewhere if she knows he will be drinking - are less available to her."

She said it is possible that women turn to helplines at Christmas and the police at New Year, which is why the crime figures are higher for the latter.

Ms Greenan said: "Part of that is because Christmas is supposed to be a happy, family time and women call helplines when they are struggling to cope. At New Year there's a lot more crisis and then the police get involved."

Reporting of domestic violence is still believed to be far lower than the actual levels of crime, and it is one of the few annual figures police would welcome a rise in.

There are typically around 60 incidents of domestic violence a day in Strathclyde, Scotland's biggest force, rising to between 80 and 90 on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and leaping to more than 170 on New Year's Day. Superintendent Peter McPike, of Strathclyde Police, said: "Although domestic abuse happens all year round, the number of incidents reported during the festive period always increases. This may be due to a number of factors, however, there is never an excuse for domestic abuse, and it is totally unacceptable at any time of year.

"Many people continue to suffer in silence and the reasons why people do not report domestic abuse can be complex. They may fear further attacks, they may feel isolated, they may find it difficult to deal directly with police officers, or feel ashamed or embarrassed about what is happening to them."I would urge people to seek help and to act before it's too late.

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"We need the help of the public and we will take action wherever possible."

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: "Analysis suggests that reports of domestic abuse are more frequent in and around New Year.

"With that in mind, Lothian and Borders Police are working alongside the White Ribbon charity and other partners to target violence against women over the festive season.

"Domestic abuse has a detrimental impact on families, and we would urge anyone with information relating to incidents of abuse to contact police."