The Christmas television adverts are here; families sat around overflowing tables and the constant reminder that this is 'the most wonderful time of the year'. The sad truth is that for thousands of women, Christmas is the time they are most at danger. Whether we realise it or not, each of us have work colleagues dreading Christmas as we happily discuss secret Santa in the office and plan our 'do's'. Like every year, Domestic Violence statistics will soar over the next few weeks. Last year, between October and the end of December, there were almost 3,000 reported incidents in Hampshire alone. The Metropolitan Police revealed a 15.5 per cent increase in domestic violence. They also reported that violence with injury as a whole had risen by 5.4 per cent compared with Christmas in 2012. Sadly, it is safe to say we can expect New Year 2016 reports to confirm that we are in the midst of a rising pandemic.
Sandra Horley, chief executive of charity Refuge, said that for "too many women and children, December 25 will be yet another day of living with fear, intimidation and violence". The problem is, of course, that Christmas is never the cause of Domestic Violence, it is a combination of elements that build up to form one catastrophic trigger for abusers.
"Domestic violence is an abuse of power - it is the repeated, habitual use of violence and intimidation to control another person," Ms Horley said. "We cannot blame domestic violence on Christmas, alcohol, drugs, unemployment, stress, money worries or ill health. These are just excuses for an abuser's behaviour."
Vicki Paddison, strategic domestic violence services manager at Hull DAP, expressed similar fears recently:
I believe it to be crucially important that we cease viewing Domestic Violence as something that happens to other people. Yes, we see it constantly on the news when it comes to the rich and famous; whether it is singer Chris Brown having his visa application to tour in Australia formally denied on 'character grounds' or Oscar Pistorius' globally publicised conviction being changed from culpable homicide to murder.
Allow me to repeat this statement: Domestic Violence is not something that happens to 'other people'.
Next week BBC2 will air 'Love You To Death: A Year of Domestic Violence' a courageous film that will once again remind us of our reality. Through this film, Vanessa Engle will tell the harrowing story of every single one of the 86 women killed by a husband, a boyfriend or a male ex-partner in 2013.
The lives of the murdered women in the documentary are you and I. Until we accept that this can happen to anyone, we will not lower this statistic for next year. Elderly women who have been married for decades, teenage girls dating teenage boys, successful business women; they all comprise the face of Domestic violence.
'Love You To Death' will share the story of Chloe Siokos who had her throat slit at the age of 80 by her ex-husband of 40 years, after which he doused her body with olive oil and petrol and set fire to her flat. Joanna Hall was stabbed 40 times by her boyfriend of three weeks. These are just two of the women murdered in 2013.
Of course, Christmas is a time of celebration and merriment and I wish each and every one of you happiness and joy. Please let's just stop to consider the millions of lives, people who live on our street, go to school with our children, colleagues at work, men, women and children who are all dreading the time of year that has proven year after year to be a terrifying season. Acceptance of our reality is the beginning of change.Suggest a correction