Intimate Partner Violence During the Winter Holidays
By Sarah Mattea Lane, Life Together Fellow
There is a common belief (though not statistically proven) that abuse increases over the winter holiday season. During this time of year there are many additional stressors, such as increased alcohol consumption, financial stress, the stress of familial expectations, and more time spent indoors because of the weather. The YWCA of Northeast Kansas expresses the danger of conflating holiday stress with abuse. “The idea that domestic violence increases because of holiday stressors can create misconceptions and perpetuate myths around the root cause of domestic violence. Although these conditions may make an abusive relationship more complex, impact a survivor’s overall safety and elevate their danger level, be used to justify or minimize the abuse, or may be an aspect of why a survivor stays or does not leave an abusive relationship, they are not inherently the root cause of domestic violence.” These stressors can exacerbate violence, but they DO NOT cause abuse. By highlighting abuse around the holidays we do not want to shift the blame from the person perpetuating abuse, but rather acknowledge the hidden realities of people experiencing abuse. There is no excuse for abuse.
Why is it Important to Discuss DV Around the Holidays?
Opportunity to raise awareness: There is often increased media coverage around domestic violence during the holidays. This is a great opportunity to raise awareness about abuse and to remind people that abuse does not take the holidays off.
People coming together: You might see family or loved ones that you don’t interact with on a regular basis. You can keep an open eye for signs of abuse and be a resource for loved ones. Additionally, if a person experiencing abuse has been isolated, holidays might be one of the few opportunities they have to connect. There is also an influx of people in faith settings, which means there is an opportunity to reach new people who might need help.
Additional Stressors: There are additional stressors that might make abuse worse - but do NOT cause abuse, such as: financial stress, increased time spent inside because of cold weather, increased alcohol usage, and family tensions/expectations.
Resources for People Experiencing Abuse
We have included a couple of resources for people experiencing abuse and hope you will share these in your communities.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799- SAFE (7233)
You can call or chat confidentially 24/7. There will be people who can listen, even on national holidays.
To learn more about what resources are available in your area, use the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s directory of providers.
Safety Planning for the Holidays: While ideally safety planning is done with a domestic violence advocate, this resource outlines some things to keep in mind for a safety plan around the holidays.
What Can Your Faith Community Do?
See: During this holiday season, you and members of your faith community can keep an eye open for potentially abusive relationships. One way you can do that is by learning warning signs of abuse. It is important to note that the presence of warning signs does not inherently make a relationship abusive and that there are abusive relationships that do not show these warning signs.
Listen: We have heard from survivors again and again about how transformative listening can be. People experiencing abuse are consistently not listened to - both by their abusers and when they reach out for help.
Break the Silence: Since there will likely be more people in your congregation around the holidays, now is the perfect opportunity to break the silence surrounding domestic violence. Some ways you can do that are:
Have hotline numbers in your bulletins or newsletters
Have information from your local DV service provider readily available
Put up posters with resources in bathroom stalls
Put Posters with Resources up on your Bulletin Boards
Support your Local Shelter: Reach about to your local domestic violence shelter and ask what ways you can support them.
Help Raise Awareness about Stalking: January is stalking awareness month. Safe Havens has created some resources to help you raise awareness next month. These resources include a flyer and a booklet about supporting survivors of stalking in faith communities. We will also be sending this information out at the beginning of January.