Canberra has seen an increase in domestic violence cases over the Christmas weekend. Photo: Gabriele Charotte
SUPPORT groups are bracing for a spate of domestic violence cases over the Christmas weekend as alcohol, stress and prolonged family contact create a perfect storm.
Executive director of the Domestic Violence Crisis Service Mirjana Wilson said there was a 20 per cent increase in calls and visits at this time of year.
''I can definitely say there is a spike,'' Ms Wilson said.
She said the service received about 1000 crisis phone calls each month, but in December there had already been more than 1300.
''Last year in December we had 1123 phone calls and in January it went up to 1244,'' Ms Wilson said.
She said crisis incidents also jumped by 20 per cent during the holiday period.
''We can't get in to all of them because of a working protocol with police but last year in December there was 85 that we were involved in.''
Ordinarily the crisis service attended 60.
''There are added stresses - finances, alcohol use - and that leads to the spike. There is that whole idea that at Christmas and holiday time families are meant to be closer, but for our clients it's far more difficult because they are trying to hold it together.''
A spokesman for ACT Policing said he could not release figures on domestic violence during the holiday period.
But director of the Australian National University Research School of Psychology Don Byrne said people should try to limit their alcohol intake and call for help if it was needed.
''Don't ignore it, look for active strategies to defuse conflict situations,'' Professor Byrne said. ''Families are complex beasts and when they come together there is conflict - usually things that have been smouldering for a while.''
Professor Byrne said alcohol exacerbated conflict and limiting drinking could reduce the number of incidents.
''It disinhibits people and they will say things and do things under the influence of alcohol that normally … psychologically inhibitory mechanisms wouldn't have them do,'' he said.