Not everyone has gotten the message that it’s a season of peace. Unfortunately, the holidays can be an even more dangerous time than normal for those at risk for domestic violence.
From the financial stress of gift buying to an overall increases in alcohol consumption, to a flurry of emotions—and sometimes stress—that accompany a plethora of family togetherness time, there are many reasons why the chance of intimate partner violence can increase during the holidays
Whether survivors don’t want to disturb family cohesiveness on these days, or can’t find a private time to make a call for support, advocates say the decline in calls isn’t necessarily an indication that violence ceases on these days, reporting that calls will often increase above normal levels the days and weeks following a holiday or after. Many times, survivors of abuse don’t want to disturb family rituals or separate children from their family during a holiday, regardless of abuse that may be occurring
“During the holidays, people are home together more,”. “In families where there is violence present that means more opportunity for violence.”
“A lot of women will grin and bear it, try to keep the peace so their children don’t have to spend holidays in a shelter,”
Although some victims may “put on a good face” while family or friends are visiting on Thanksgiving or Christmas, that stoicism can’t often last long.
Domestic violence victims may feel societal pressure to keep their families intact around Christmas. Holidays are typically seen as a special time for celebrating families. Victims may feel guilty for not living up to cultural expectations and may try to stick it out a bit longer.
“We know that one of the prime reasons why people stay in abusive relationships is their children. During the holidays, there might be a lot of pressure to keep the family together, to have everyone there for a meal and to open presents.”
The persistence of the myth betrays a lack of understanding about how abuse works. Domestic violence is not simply isolated acts of physical violence, but rather a pattern of behavior. Perpetrators use a range of tactics ― including emotional, verbal, economic and sexual abuse ― to control and intimidate victims.
While acts of physical violence may fluctuate in frequency over the course of a relationship, the power and control that underpins the abuse remains constant.
“Coercive control doesn’t take a vacation,” she said. “It’s there all the time.”
One reason the myth may persist is that the public can relate to the strain of the holidays and conclude that factors like stress and alcohol cause domestic violence. While they may exacerbate the situation, they are not the root causes.
For those who decide to stay in – or in some cases return to – abusive homes around Thanksgiving and Christmas,
- Identifying easy exits from the house and
- Establishing code words with children who can run to neighbors for help if violence becomes a problem.
- Considering what rooms in the house are “safe” to have an argument in.
- A lot of us spend time in the kitchen during the holidays,” but the kitchen is a very dangerous place to have an argument, with knives, boiling water, and pots and pans within reach.”
“We all look forward to the holidays ― they are special and magical, and being in shelter may not feel that special, but nothing should be more special than having a holiday that is violence-free.”