It’s Christmas and we are again asking you to help the women and children whose lives are devastated by domestic violence in Northern Ireland.

Last year 43,949 calls were managed by our 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline. The highest recorded numbers were, as always, over the Christmas period.

Luckily we have a team of highly trained, experienced staff and volunteers who are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to offer support, advice and practical information to women seeking to escape a life of beatings, rape, financial control, isolation and emotional abuse in their own home. Some of these women and children will go to emergency accommodation in one of our Refuges in Northern Ireland.

Christmas is a time of joy, of families coming together, of love and laughter. It should not be a time of fear or pain. It is tragic to think of a woman and her children enduring a Christmas day of silence, violent outbursts and beatings, removed from contact with other family members. Many women and children endure this terrible situation because they feel there is no other option.

Women’s Aid is here to ensure women know there are options, including the safe haven of our refuges. Last year 831 women and 586 children stayed in our Women’s Aid refuges and a further 3,663 women and 4,152 children were supported through our Floating Support services. We were able to support all of the women and children as they started on their journey to change their lives.

You can help ensure that we will be there for any woman in crisis when she calls by giving generously. If you wish to donate directly to any of our local Women’s Aid groups or leave gifts for the children in the refuges, any of our local groups throughout Northern Ireland will be happy to receive them. Or you can donate directly to our regional emergency fund, the proceeds of which go to help women and children that are most in need at this time of year.

Thank you and may you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.