Foyle Women’s Aid had so many women and children seeking refuge during the Christmas and New Year period it had to turn people away, the charity has revealed.
Marie Brown, Director of Foyle Women’s Aid, said demand for crisis accommodation in the city reached the point where it had to send a family to one of its emergency shelters in the Coleraine area.
Ms Brown said the charity - which provides refuge and support mainly for women and children affected by domestic violence, had no vacancies over the festive season with only two places becoming available yesterday.
She said Foyle Women’s Aid were also expecting to see the high number of women and children seeking help continue throughout this month.
The charity director revealed that it was also helping men who found themselves on the receiving end of domestic violence.
Ms Brown said: “When people are off over Christmas, there is a lot of stress. Alcohol and money are also factors. Alcohol is of course not an excuse, but a lot of people feel under pressure. There are a whole lot of different dynamics that contribute.”
From April to September 2011, the number of alleged domestic abuse incidents in Foyle was 1,122. This rose to 1,211 in the same period during 2012, making Foyle the area with the highest number of reported cases in Northern Ireland.
Ms Brown said: “We are seeing a lot of older women coming forward and we are seeing very young women, around 16 and 17 years of age which is very worrying. We also have a lot of young males. The domestic violence unit is here for men as much as women.”
Ms Brown expressed major concern about the effects of domestic abuse on children. She added: “There are a lot of children across Northern Ireland who are witnessing violence and not enough is being done to help them. More needs to be done and partnership work is really vital; we aren’t communicating in the best way.”
Ms Brown urged anyone who finds themself in an abusive situation to come forward and seek help. “Anybody who is suffering shouldn’t be. It is wrong,” she stressed. The 24-hour helpline is 0808 2000 247.