When we think of the holiday season, most of us picture days full of festive lights, family gatherings, and gift-giving. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many people around the globe and within our own communities. As we celebrate our year, it is essential to address a darker reality that often accompanies: the increase in domestic violence cases.
On average, police interventions related to domestic violence rise by 20% in December, compared to other months of the year. And, one of the highest reported time periods for instances of domestic violence is New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. While the holidays are meant to be a time of joy and connection, various factors contribute to a surge in incidents of domestic violence.
- Financial Stress: Financial strain is a significant contributor to heightened tensions during the holidays. The pressure to buy gifts, host elaborate meals, and travel to be with family can lead to arguments over money. In households already grappling with financial difficulties, this stress can escalate into verbal or physical abuse.
- Increased Substance Use: The holiday season often sees a rise in social events where alcohol and other substances are prevalent. For individuals already struggling with addiction issues, increased substance use can exacerbate violent tendencies. Substance abuse impairs judgment and self-control, making it a dangerous catalyst for domestic violence incidents.
- Family Expectations and Tensions: The expectations associated with family gatherings during the holidays can create a breeding ground for tension. Whether it’s unmet expectations, unresolved family issues, or heightened emotions, these factors can contribute to arguments that escalate into violence.
- Isolation and Loneliness: While the holidays are a time of togetherness for many, they can also amplify feelings of isolation for others. Individuals who feel lonely or excluded may experience heightened emotions, leading to conflicts within relationships. In some cases, this loneliness can exacerbate existing abusive dynamics.
- Perceived Failures: The pressure to create a perfect holiday experience can lead to heightened stress and anxiety. Individuals who feel they are falling short of societal expectations may redirect their frustrations onto their partners or family members, resulting in abusive behavior.
While these are all potential reasons for the increase in cases, it is important to remember that abusers are still abusers – regardless of the stress they are under. These are explanations, not excuses for abusive behavior.
How to Keep Yourself Safe During the Holidays:
- Plan Ahead: If you’re in a situation where you feel unsafe, consider creating a safety plan. This may involve identifying safe spaces in your home, having a bag packed with essentials ready to go, and establishing a code word or signal with a trusted friend or family member that indicates you need help.
- Communicate Boundaries: Clearly communicate your boundaries and expectations with your partner or family members. Open and honest communication can help manage expectations and prevent misunderstandings that could escalate into violence.
- Seek Support: Reach out to friends, family, or a support network if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Share your concerns and let them know how they can help. Sometimes, having a supportive person to talk to can make a significant difference.
- Utilize Hotlines and Resources: Familiarize yourself with domestic violence hotlines and local resources. These organizations are equipped to provide guidance, support, and, if necessary, emergency intervention. Having this information readily available can be crucial in times of crisis. Options Domestic and Sexual Violence Services has an 18-county service area in northwest Kansas – and we operate 24/7.
- Know Your Exit Strategies: Identify exit strategies for different scenarios. Whether it’s leaving the house to seek refuge at a friend’s place or having a plan to call for help, knowing what steps to take can be crucial in ensuring your safety.
- Educate Yourself on Legal Protections: Familiarize yourself with legal protections available to victims of domestic violence. This may include obtaining a restraining order or seeking legal assistance to ensure your safety and well-being.
The Holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, but domestic violence doesn’t end even when the world is covered in holiday cheer. By understanding the contributing factors and taking proactive steps to prioritize safety, individuals can navigate the holidays with greater peace of mind. Remember that help is available, and no one deserves to live in fear. Reach out, seek support, and take the necessary steps to protect yourself and those you care about during this festive season.
If you need any additional information, have a question, or a concern, feel free to reach out to Options at our 24-hour toll-free helpline 800-794-4624. You can also reach an advocate via text by texting HOPE to 847411 or click 24-Hour Chat with Options.
Written by Anniston Weber