It’s difficult to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa knowing there is a rise in domestic violence during the holidays. While many imagine sugar plum fairies dancing in their dreams, others are seeing stars from blows to their head. This “version” of Twas the Night Before Christmas gives us a true picture of what it’s really like to have Christmas in a home filled with domestic violence.
We don’t want to believe or even accept the rise in domestic violence during the holidays, but it happens. Many states report their abuse shelters are over capacity during this time of year. So, now the staff at each of these safe havens compassionately tries to deliver the holiday gifts and peaceful meals the children might not have if they were still in the throes of domestic violence during the holidays. The news is overloaded with reports of the state of our economy. There have been drastic cutbacks, even before the shutdown or sequestration. Some of the first hit by these blows were organizations and shelters attempting to give victims of domestic violence a shelter from abuse, food to eat and clothes on the backs of them and their children. There are abuse shelters that actually have onsite schools for the children, in an effort to keep them safe and offer a sense of security from harm and abuse they came to expect on a regular basis.
The children may not understand statistics, but they can understand a rise in domestic violence during the holidays when they see Mommy cowering in a corner, covering her face to hide a black eye, or hiding bruises on her arms and neck. They don’t need governmental pie charts or graphs. Perhaps they even wonder if Santa will dare stop at their house, a house rife with domestic violence during the holidays. Maybe he’ll just fly past so as not to get involved – like so many others have done in the past.
Every child deserves joy, security and the gift of peace any time of the year. But when there is a situation of domestic violence during the holidays, screams, swinging fists or flying dishes replace grins, giggles and eyes shining like stars. Rather than delight, there is danger.
And lest we forget, domestic violence during the holidays usually includes the victim being accused of overspending, or money to buy gifts for the children may be withheld completely. How does a mom explain to her children there won’t be any presents under the tree this year?
One primary cause of the spike in domestic violence during the holidays is alcohol abuse. Ironically, contrary to popular belief, this time of year suicide rates actually drop, yet domestic violence during the holidays only increases.
What’s a victim to do?
There are some very important rules to follow in an effort to increase the chances of remaining safe from domestic violence during the holidays. Here are just a few:
- Realizing it is very difficult, given all the baking and cooking going on, if an argument breaks out, stay clear of the kitchen. There are too many items that can be used against you as weapons, especially knives.
- Do not allow yourself to be in a position where you are backed into a corner, or in a room with no easy escape, like the bathroom.
- As I’ve written so many times in other blog posts about safety plans and exit strategies, develop a code word with your children. It is their very special secret only you and they know. If you use the code word or phrase, it is their signal to run to the neighbor and ask for help. They may have to practice crawling out of a window, or using the front or back door, dependent upon which is clear at the time. You might also think about teaching them how to call 911, and what to say.
- Have your escape bag packed and ready. Do not hide it at home, or in the trunk, where it will easily be found. Remember, a victim of domestic violence is at the greatest point of danger when they decide or attempt to leave, and shortly thereafter. Ask a close friend to keep the bag for you. Find a place at work. Keep a spare set of keys somewhere handy but out of sight. My suggestion is to keep a change purse hidden away. In it, have a spare car key, a copy of your driver’s license and auto insurance card, some cash in case you need to call for a taxi, and a list of telephone numbers of friends, law enforcement, the domestic violence hotline and a shelter in your area.
It’s better to be ready and never need it, than to be caught in a dangerous position, unpacked and unprepared.
In spite of the rise in domestic violence during the holidays, from my heart to yours, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Be safe.
After being selected by Verizon as 1 of only 5 women in the nation to represent them at an international conference, Carolyn was then invited by ABC Action News to feature her story as the opening segment on their annual prime time special, “Taking Action Against Domestic Violence.” It was nominated for an Emmy award. She has also appeared on nationally syndicated programs, was interviewed by CNN regarding the Rihanna/Chris Brown story, and sought for her expertise by Fox News 13 for insight regarding the Jerry Sandusky trial. Her website, http://carolynhennecy.com ranks consistently in the top 1-5 spots, dependent upon the search term being used. It has reached 178 countries around the world, and received nearly 30,000 visits in 2013.