Christmas pressure fuels family violence

Anne Simmons

The summer holiday period is one of the worst times of the year for family violence, the peak industry body for agencies working with men to end family violence says.

No To Violence experiences a 35 per cent increase in phone calls to its men’s referral service over the Christmas and New Year period and is ramping up its staffing to meet the increased demand.

The organisation visited key industry workers in Morwell in October on a ‘listening tour’ which identified high rates of family violence during holidays as a state-wide issue.

During Christmas and even around the AFL grand final, families can be under more strain and spend more time together, according to the organisation’s chief executive officer Jacqui Watt.

“I think Christmas is a really important time for families. It’s a pressured time for families. We’re all meant to be happy together having a great time,” Ms Watt said.

“It might be the time when for him [a dad], he’s confronted by the fact he’s not a very good parent. We know that an immense sense of shame can also fuel violence.”

No To Violence specifically addresses behaviour change in men through a telephone service, while women can phone the organisation for information about men’s family violence.

The organisation may also phone a man following a family violence-related incident police have been called to.

The problem can be harder to recognise and seek help for when it is a form of violence which is not physical, according to Ms Watt.

“It is very, very hard to get men to recognise their own behaviour is problematic particularly if it’s psychological abuse, financial or verbal abuse … they’re not seeing the problem,” she said.

Ms Watt said a sign of “very controlling behaviour” was when, for example, a young man believes he has the right to know where his girlfriend is at all times.

“What I would say is ‘if you’re one of those guys, come and talk to us because you have a problem’,” Ms Watt said.

“I think making a call and talking to somebody is the first really courageous and brave step that a man can make and he will be listened to.”

While increased consumption of alcohol during the holiday period is a factor in increased family violence, Ms Watt said it was not a cause.

“If you removed all the alcohol and lived in … a sober society you would still have issues of family violence abuse and power and control,” Ms Watt said.

“Lots more men are getting in touch with us and they are telling us this is really helping them to become better men and better dads … and happier in themselves.”

She said women whose partners had been through the program reported feeling much safer at home and “children are less scared of dad”.

If you are concerned about your own behaviour or someone you know, please phone the Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491 or visit to chat online.