Domestic Violence and the Holidays Harriette Barker, Ph.D, RN

Free Stock Photo: A red Christmas present isolated on a white background

 

Each year the decorations, shopping, bright lights, Christmas cheer, and celebrations signal the holidays.   Many people are happy, but others are emotionally, financially and socially stressed

Holidays such as Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Year are challenging for persons who are experiencing financial difficulty, loss or social isolation.  Many individuals also experience the “holiday blues,” a form of depression that is more prevalent during this season. Family stress may also be high.  If relationships are fragile, family gatherings may cause increased stress levels.   Partying and excessive alcohol intake are other sources of stress for many people.

Some police departments in the nation have reported an increase in domestic violence during this current holiday season.  However, a reason article in the Huffington Post on this issue suggested the idea of increased violence at holiday time is a myth, because “violence does not take a vacation.” According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, there is a reduction in the number of persons contacting their service during the holiday season. They suggested that concerns about keeping the family together during the holidays may be the main reason for under-reporting any violence.
Domestic violence can be physical, verbal or emotional.  It may be subtle or coercive.  The abuser may use financial, restrictive, isolation or exclusionary tactics to exercise control over their victim.  For example, not allowing her to use the car to visit family or friends.  In one situation, the abuser canceled a holiday luncheon without informing his partner.

Tips to reduce holiday abuse

  • Clear communication is the key in helping to prevent abuse.
  • Expressing your feelings calmly but firmly is important.
  • Head off situations that are escalating by leaving the room.
  • Eliminate provocative arguments
  • Take time to cool down.
  • Make a budget written in stone. No changes.
  • Monitor alcohol intake
  • Refrain from attention seeking behavior
  • Reach out to a resource when overwhelmed.

You can suddenly find yourself in an abusive situation.  It is important that you have a plan for getting help.  Family, neighbors or friends may be your first sources, but in abusive situations, it is better to contact 911.    Do not accept that your abuser is experiencing seasonal stress.   Do not use excuses to defend your abuser.

If you live in an abusive situation, holiday stress may easily exacerbate any interactions with your abuser.  There are a variety of resources in your community such as shelters, hotlines, churches, non-profit organizations and the police that will offer help.  You should keep a list of them and their contact numbers.  Domestic violence is often difficult to detect, so family and friends should be vigilant for any signs of its’ occurrence during this period.

 

National Domestic Violence Hotline  Number

24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). All calls are confidential and anonymous.

 

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