Domestic abuse is known to spike over Christmas – but it is certainly not an excuse, an Ipswich-based service has said.  

Suffolk police has released figures for the past seven years, showing the most prevalent crimes committed year on year.  

In 2016, there were 3,978 domestic violence-related crimes recorded, although this does not account for the number of victims who may not have reported their abuse to police.  

Since then, that figure has almost doubled.

This includes crimes such as harassment, assault, malicious communications (any communication which is indecent or grossly offensive), stalking, threats to kill, and murder. 

Between 2016 and 2017, the number of reported incidents grew by more than a thousand, with 5,106 crimes reported in 2017.

That figure rose to 5,921 in 2018, then to 6,964 in 2019 – a further jump of more than 1,000 incidents. 

This trend continued into the pandemic, with 7,938 incidents reported in 2020. The figure decreased slightly to 7,325 in 2021 and grew to 7,595 last year. 

Made with Flourish

These rises are not surprising to Jo Bigger, who is the service manager of Lighthouse, a charity based in Ipswich which supports women, young people and children. 

"Our figures have certainly risen since Covid. There can be a variety of reasons for that,” she explained. “Part of it is that people now have more of an understanding of what domestic abuse is, particularly around coercive control. It can also help being depicted more often in the media, so that more people can identify it." 

Some 111 incidents of controlling or coercive behaviour were reported in 2016. That figure has been steadily on the rise ever since. The figure peaked at 612 in 2020, dropped to 577 in 2021, and became 513 in 2022. 

The number of murders classed as domestic violence related crimes has remained consistent since 2016. One murder a year took place, apart from 2019 when there were none, and last year, when there were two. 

However, threats to kill have increased steadily. 

In 2016, 74 threats of murder were reported to the police. There were 91 in 2017, 94 in 2018, 128 in 2019, 132 in 2020, 100 in 2021 and 123 last year. 

Made with Flourish

Ms Bigger said that it is to be expected that the number of incidents rise over years, as sufferers become more comfortable coming forward. 

"From a Lighthouse point of view, we get quite a lot of referrals where, for example, a neighbour has told them [the victim] to come forward,” she said. “There’s a greater understanding, with maybe friends and family understanding what might be happening and saying, ‘Actually, you should get some help with this.’" 

"Society is better at recognising it [abuse] now. That can only be a good thing." 

It has been well-documented that domestic abuse can spike at Christmas, with family members spending more time together for extended periods of time. 

However, Ms Bigger was clear that the festivities should not be used to explain away abuse. 

"If you think about the abuser, there are always more opportunities around these times to control,” she said.  

“You can control people by stopping them meeting their family and friends, and financially control them as well, which will often make people realise what the environment is like. 

"It can also increase physical abuse through alcohol, and drinking more at Christmas, and perhaps the overall tensions of Christmas.” 

“It’s important to say that Christmas is an excuse for this behaviour. It’s not the cause; it’s an excuse,” she said.  

Lighthouse Women’s Aid offers support and advice for women and their children experiencing domestic abuse. If you think that you are in an abusive relationship, then please call Lighthouse on: 01473 228270 or refer through our website . 

Lighthouse welcomes businesses and individuals who would like to support the crucial work they do. Please contact or phone 01473220770 if you would like to donate or fundraise, ensuring Lighthouse can continue to be there for all who need them.