by Whitley Pierson DV/SA Advocate
During the holidays, it is normal for domestic violence agencies to experience a lull in calls and walk-ins until after New Year’s Day. This can be attributed to many things, but it is manly attributed to victims wanting to keep their family unit together for Christmas. With the COVID-19 numbers rising and a second wave currently taking place, this Christmas season is proving to be the hardest time for a victim living with daily abuse. UN Women estimates 15 million women worldwide will be affected by domestic and family violence if the “stay at home” orders continue for three more months. You may be asking, why is this? Let’s break down some of the reasons victims are struggling to seek services during this time.
1. No Office Work, No Reason to Leave the Home
Many people are currently working from home instead of going to their normal 9:00am-5:00pm job. This can be extremely dangerous for domestic violence victims because this could have been their only separation time from their abusive partner. The holidays also seem to be the time when victims have extended time off from work. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, they see a massive increase in calls around January 2nd, due to victims returning to work and being able to call the hotline from a safe location.
2. Appearances Matter
The holidays are a time for families to come together. While this year may look very different for some, wanting to keep up appearances for the holiday season is still extremely relevant. Many victims do not come forward because they have been convinced no one will believe or help them; including their own family. This idea has been engrained in them through emotional and verbal abuse by their abusive partner. It can also be difficult for victims to admit their family is not as “put together” as they make it seem.
3. Risk Factors are Heightened
While there is no excuse for domestic violence, there are a few risk factors that can escalate an abuser’s behavior. These risk factors include: the financial strain of Christmas, the pressure and stress of being around family, increased alcohol or substance consumption, or just the fact that abusers will be at home more often with the victims. During the pandemic, these risk factors are even more prevalent in abusive homes making the abuse more frequent and severe.
4. Feelings of Shame
Many victims can feel the pressure to keep their family unit together during the holidays, especially for their children. Victims can feel a heightened sense of shame and guilt around the idea their children may not have the normal Christmas experience. They may also be afraid of keeping their kids in a shelter over Christmas and having to explain to them why the holiday is different this year. This can cause the victim to be over compliant with their abuser and try their best to avoid any abuse.
5. Abusers Like to Isolate
Stress levels can often increase for abusers during the holidays due to more interaction. Abusers will typically isolate the victim from friends and family. The holidays tend to get in the way of this plan due to family members or friends wanting to check in more. Family members should be aware of the signs of abuse to safely encourage the victim to seek help when it is the most secure for them to do so.
While we know there is no season for domestic abuse and abusers use violence year round, this is the time of year when it can be the most lethal. We encourage you to learn how to safely help a victim close to you seek services and resources to help them leave their abusive relationship. If you hear something going on next door, do not hesitate to call law enforcement. The holidays are about giving and helping one another, you may just save someone’s life by offering to help or by calling 911. Here at Help-in-Crisis, we are always available to take your call, even through the Christmas holiday. Our hotline is operated by trained advocates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-300-5321. Please never hesitate to reach out for help.
by Whitley Pierson DV/SA Advocate