By Andrea McCallum
HUNDREDS of women suffered domestic abuse during the cold snap because they were unable to leave home to call for help.
According to new figures from the Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline there was a 22 per cent drop in calls during the worst winter on record.
Experts have said the statistics – covering a four week period from Boxing Day – are unlikely to reflect a reduction in the number of assaults.
Instead they could show that the bad weather left vulnerable women trapped.
Lynda Bell, co-ordinator at the Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline, said: “The snow may well have impacted on the number of calls as people couldn’t get away from the house to phone the helpline from a mobile or they didn’t have privacy to call from their own home.
“Train and bus services were disrupted, which meant that women hoping to leave an abusive partner felt they couldn’t.
“This time of year does force the family together over a longer period of time, but when you can’t escape the tension, it can blow up further and unfortunately it’s women that tend to be on the receiving end of abuse.”
Between December 26 and January 25 1,821 calls were made to the Domestic Abuse Helpline.
The number shows a drop of 526 calls from last year’s total of 2,347 over the same period.
About one in five calls related to money worries following the Christmas period.
Ms Bell added: “Christmas is an expensive time of year for everyone but some women experiencing abuse will buy more presents for the children to try and make up for the tension in the home.
“This can mean that they are left short of money which puts pressure on them to remain with their abusive partner.”
Housing and Communities Minister Alex Neil said the festive campaign – backed by a £44 million investment from the Scottish Government – had encouraged women to come forward.
He said: “I’d urge anyone who is living in fear of their partner to pick up the phone and seek help.
“It’s important that women who are being abused by a partner behind closed doors know they are not to blame, they are not alone and help is available.”