Christmas is a time for family, home, gifts, fun and festivity. The shops are full with busy shoppers buying presents for loved ones, cheerful twinkly lights adorn every street and TV and magazines are bursting with information from how to cook brussel sprouts like Nigella to ‘best gift guides’ for that someone special in your life.
So far; so idyllic. But it’s not such a fun and joyous experience for many people. The family, the central figure of the story of Christmas, is not always a happy place. For some women and children, the four walls that surround them do not keep them secure but instead keep them trapped within the prison of abuse. At Christmas, a time when the family is most idealised, the torture of what goes on behind closed doors can be devastating for many women and children. With heightened emotions, it can also be a dangerous time for many.
To raise awareness of domestic violence at Christmas, this year Sonas produced its own stock of Christmas cards, with images designed by the children in the Sonas service. These cute and endearing cards are a reminder to those of us lucky enough to have a good home life, that there are children out there who have already suffered homelessness in their young lives because of domestic violence. When drafting the cards, I originally put the following quote on the back of the card:
“She was all covered in blood and there were clumps of hair all over the place and the baby was crying… I remember picking up mammy’s clumps of hair that day and ringing the guards.” Catherine, 13, Listening to Children’s Stories of Domestic Violence, WIT, 2007
However a peer review concluded that it was too strong and too off-putting for a general audience. Domestic violence is never a light-hearted subject, least of all at Christmas when people prefer to focus on the more positive things in life. It’s a time when people want to think about presents, music and fun not mental torture, crushed bones, picking up clumps of your Mam’s hair from the floor and having no place to call home.
However silence is compliance. It is essential awareness is raised on the issue of domestic violence and it’s highlighted time and time again that domestic violence, in any form, is unacceptable. It’s time a clear, strong light was shone into the dark shadows of family life in Ireland.
Paula McGovern is policy and communications officer with Sonas Housing Association. Sonas Housing Association provides supported housing to women and children made homeless because of domestic and all gender-based violence.
You can purchase packs of 10 cards (5×2 designs) for €3 (excl postage). Check out their website www.sonashousing.ie for more information.