The joy of Christmas is sadly denied to many victims of domestic violence which peaks over the holiday season. We spoke to a Salford woman who is determined to help those facing a seasonal nightmare.

Add alcohol to the financial and personal strains of the season and the results can be horrific for domestic abuse victims. But even worse, they are less likely to try to escape – because it’s Christmas.

Jane Gregory, the project manager for Salford Survivor project, said: “It’s only natural that at times when alcohol is consumed more than during a normal week that there will be some kind of rise in domestic abuse. People don’t have the same coping strategies when they’re under the influence of drugs and alcohol.”

Her big concern is the number of men and women who will stay in abusive households over the festive period, to avoid living in a refuge and making their children miss Christmas.

Ms Gregory added: “It’s not an ideal situation to take their children and go and live in a refuge. In addition if, say, they’re working, they would have to pay to live in that refuge which can be more that their wages.”

She continued: “It leaves you in a situation where if you’re a two-parent family and maybe one’s not working and that’s the person who’s being abused or they’re on a lower income, they would have to go onto benefits and with the new universal credit it can be four to five weeks before they get any of that benefit which means they’re really struggling.

“Nobody wants to see their children without Christmas presents.”

The Salford Survivors project, established in 2012, is providing 20 families with food and gifts for Christmas day.

This appeal will help children from the age eight weeks old, by offering those who are financially vulnerable after fleeing abusive homes the opportunity to have a happy Christmas.

Ms Gregory said: “We specifically chose 20 families who we thought were in the most desperate need […] some of them have left within the last year or a year ago and are just trying to get on their feet, if you can imagine starting again- no furniture, you’ve got children. The last thing on their mind right now is actually Christmas.”

However, domestic violence does not take breaks and there are people suffering from this all year round. Ms Gregory has been surrounded by domestic violence her entire life. It inspired her to set up Salford Survivor, to offer support to victims of abuse.  She said: “The aim was just to be there as a safety net when they didn’t fit into the categories of some of the services. It’s about empowering them and supporting their choices. So we don’t tell people not to go back, we ask them what they want to do and work with them […] we walk with them.”

This project aims to educate people on how to escape domestic violence and how to help people who are affected by it. It offers services such as domestic abuse training, which they run in the local community to educate people on domestic abuse and the law surrounding this.

She said: “If it was a person going through domestic abuse, I would tell them to get as much information and educate themselves about what domestic abuse is. And also for them to self analyse themselves and try and understand why they accept that kind of behaviour. It’s about building self worth. If you feel better about yourself your less likely to allow somebody else to treat you in an abusive way.”

Salford Survivor project offers four weekly drop in sessions around Salford and three support groups where women can talk to a trained advisor.

The charity is growing rapidly with 18 volunteers, who are part of the team which are currently helping 180 families suffering from domestic abuse. Each of the volunteers has been through domestic abuse or some sort of family abuse. This gives them the experience to help somebody and understand the reasoning behind the choices made by victims of abuse.

“These volunteers have gone through that and come out the other side- so they’ve got invaluable experience on how to help somebody.”

Recently, the team have been able to secure the prosecution and/or investigations into a number of cases including a serial woman abuser, a serial child rapist and a number of assaults and serious attacks. In the future the charity hopes to have expanded enough to offer five day a week support for victims of abuse and produce research to change domestic violence on a national level.

Ms Gregory, who commits around 70 hours a week to Salford Survivor project, said: “We’re making changes to individuals lives and families and the ordinary people in Salford. But what we actually want to do is make changes for people right across the board.”

To support Salford Survivor Christmas appeal visit the gofundme site or check facebook and twitter for the supplies needed. Anyone suffering from domestic abuse or who knows somebody who is,  can contact Salford Survivors project on the helpline (0161 706 0468) between 10am and 10pm.

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