FOR many, the New Year is about celebrating with friends or spending time with loved ones.

But for thousands of women in abusive relationships, January 1 marks a new chapter in their lives as hundreds try to escape the clutches of their violent partner.

Some seek solace at a refuge, while many others attempt to rebuild their lives, and their children’s, in a new town or city.

At Swindon Women’s Aid, Christmas and New Year is their busiest time of the year as volunteers are flooded with calls by desperate women looking for support.

At the start of December, the charity launched its Everybody’s Business campaign - a joint venture between the Swindon Community Safety Partnership, Swindon Borough Council, Swindon Women’s Aid, Wiltshire Police, Dorset And Wiltshire Fire And Rescue Service, NHS Swindon and Wiltshire Probation, among many others.

It aims to raise awareness of domestic violence, encourage anonymous reporting to the police and highlight how one phone call to report domestic abuse could potentially save someone’s life.

For Andraya Lyons, who was killed by her partner in Rodbourne in December 2016, that vital phone call could have been the thing to give her a fighting chance of survival.

Now, Swindon Women’s Aid director Olwen Kelly hopes people take note of how the Everybody’s Business can change women’s lives.

“We have to make people understand that you can call the police without giving your name with concerns about abuse,” she said.

“The majority of people who hear an argument going on stay quiet because they are scared to death of being involved in other people’s relationships. People don’t want to be seen as a nuisance and think if they grass to the police there could be repercussions on them.

“It is about normalising the reporting of domestic violence so it is not a taboo subject and so when people hear or witness it, they treat domestic abuse like any other crime.

“What we want to do is promote the campaign and show that’s how we want people to view domestic violence, as abhorrent and totally unacceptable. It doesn’t have a place in society.”

While Christmas sees families come together, for women experiencing domestic violence, the festive season can see their abuse reach breaking point as they spend more time with their partner who may keep a closer eye on their actions.

Many become further isolated from their friends, while others muster the courage to look at the New Year as a fresh start and seek help.

Olwen said: “For a lot of women, it is Boxing Day when they turn up at our door. It is a mixture of families being together as well as their extended family being at home and for women in abusive relationships it is an unusual dynamic. Then you have the pressure of Christmas and making it perfect and underneath that is financial pressure.

“Alcohol will play a large part and we are not saying it is the reason for domestic violence, however it will exaggerate already hostile relationships and play a part in escalating violence.

“We also get an increase in the calls we receive because a lot of people, having had Christmas with their partner, think that is it and that they don’t want to put themselves or their children through it anymore.

“A lot of women see the New Year as a new start and again we see a massive surge in the number of people wanting help in January.”

Startling figures show that two women a week are killed by their partner or former partner and one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

Across the country, increasing demand has placed a huge pressure on funding for refuges and domestic violence support.

However, in the last month there has been widespread concerns about potential changes to the way women access such help.

The Department For Communities And Local Government and the Department For Work And Pensions plan to remove refuges and other short-term supported housing from the welfare system, meaning vulnerable women will not be able to pay for placements using housing benefit.

Currently refuges, if they are not funded locally, rely on housing benefit to stay afloat.

With more women seeking help in January, Swindon Women’s Aid say they are truly thankful to the town for their ongoing support and donations as it means volunteers can continue to provide the much-needed service.

“When you are a victim, you are naturally isolated and can be cut off from family and friends, not going out socially with people,” Olwen said.

“They will not feel in a position to report abuse themselves because they will be emotionally, and sometimes physically drained to do so and may feel intimidated by the perpetrator.

“So, if a neighbour can report it anonymously and raise their concerns, that would enable some sort of investigation and that is all it needs sometimes.

“For us, we are trying to normalise something that is far from normal and we can only succeed through donations. The community of Swindon has been absolutely fantastic and they have really done us proud – there will be lots of families having a great Christmas because of them.

“As a society, we are reluctant to admit how widespread domestic violence is.

“If people are hearing arguments through the walls and you know it is more than an argument, then call the police. We have that human instinct to know a simple argument has crossed a line.”

In the next 12 months it is hoped that Swindon Women’s Aid will be able to promote their Everybody’s Business campaign by working in partnership with schools to boost healthy relationships.

If you have concerns about anyone who may be a victim of domestic abuse, call police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. Anonymous calls can be made to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

If you are experiencing domestic violence charities such as Refuge and Women’s Aid can help. Call 0808 2000 247 or visit