A DOMESTIC abuse campaign has been launched to highlight the increase in victims over the festive period.

Police and crime commissioner Clive Grunshaw is backing the Handled With Care operation, which encourages those suffering abuse to seek help.

Last year, cases increased in Lancashire by 322 over the festive period compared with an average month.

Mr Grunshaw said it was particularly important to highlight the support available for victims at this time of year when authorities saw a significant increase in violence.

In total, there were 280,000 reports of domestic abuse in the county in 2011.

He said: “For many people, Christmas is a happy time of year but across Lancashire many homes will have a Christmas filled not with presents, fun and laughter but with fear, violence and abuse.

“When people tend to spend more time at home together, they tend to drink a little bit more and there are pressures on finances.

“The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness among women in Lancashire.

“It is about encouraging them to access support services.

“Tackling abuse is a priority for us in Lancashire, it is an issue across the county but in Lancashire we have seen an increase year-on-year.

“This is not acceptable and there is an alternative.”

Mr Grunshaw added that on average, women would be assaulted 35 times before they made first contact with a support service.

Det ch insp Sue Crawley said the police’s message to victims was that they had the right to feel safe in their own homes.

She said: “There is a substantial amount of domestic violence across East Lancashire.

“We attend each domestic abuse incident and risk assess each one to find out exactly what the abuse involves.

“Whether it is physical or emotional, it is all treated the same.

“The point needs to be made that victims may not want to go to court, but we have people who understand and can support you and your family through a prosecution.

“We look at trying to prevent repeat incidents and it is our view that a perpetrator is more likely to stop if they are held to account.”

If you need help or are worried about someone, call the freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 2000247. If you are in immediate danger, call 999.