THE number of women seeking help from a South Tyneside domestic abuse charity in the run-up to Christmas more than doubled last year.
Latest figures from Options reveal that during November and December, there were 120 referrals made for women who had been verbally and physically attacked by their partners.
Over the same period in 2012, that figure was 53.
Options co-ordinator Julie Robinson believes work highlighting domestic abuse and giving victims the confidence to come forward and speak out has led to the rise in referrals.
But she fears there are still a number of people suffering at the hands of their partners or other family members who are yet to find the strength to report attacks.
In the eight months from May to December, 638 women sought help and support from Options, a rate of about 20 per week.
Miss Robinson said: “These figures don’t necessarily mean more women are being abused. This shows more women are finding the courage to report it and are seeking help.
“But there are still a lot of women who are suffering in silence, and we just want to encourage anyone suffering at the hands of an abusive partner to seek help.”
Options provides help, support and guidance to women who are victims of domestic abuse, both physically and emotionally.
Last year, the charity launched a support group dedicated to men living in fear of their partners or other family members. It is the first of its kind in South Tyneside.
Until then, men brave enough to seek help needed to turn to support groups outside the borough.
Meanwhile, over the festive season, a team of police officers dedicated to dealing with calls relating to domestic abuse were out and about offering support to victims.
Inspector Peter Sutton, of the Riverside neighbourhood policing team in South Shields, said: “We take all reports of domestic abuse very seriously, and will look to pursue perpetrators in order to bring them to justice while providing the best possible service for victims.
“This is why we had a team of dedicated officers out over the festive season to offer specialist support to victims as, historically, this is the time of year when we see incidents of domestic abuse rise.”
Options can be contacted on 456 7577. The police can be contacted on 101 ext 69191 or, in an emergency, 999.