The Real Scrooge in the holiday season: Holidays and their effect on domestic violence
The holidays are the perfect time to see loved ones or friends you haven’t seen in a long time. Most people have time off work, students often have a break from school or university, and people are expected to head home. It is a time to spend an extended period around your extended family. Even if you love your family this can be overwhelming, in which case we suggest creating an excuse to have an hour alone, be it reading a new book, playing a new game or just taking a rest.
However the holiday season creates pressures for people who do not find home a safe space, who may not want to go home, or who feel as though others would judge them if they did not. Gift giving or a sit down dinner can be fraught with tension, as can living with family. This is especially true for those who face domestic violence. For those that live at home with their abusers, then this also increases contact time, even if the threat level and controlling behaviors are constant. Much like the increased rates of violence during coronavirus, anything that provides more contact with an abuser, especially for an extended period of time, can be dangerous and, in some cases, life threatening.
When it comes to the holiday season some people feel pressured by the financial burden and, coupled with the fact that alcoholic consumption regularly increases over this period of time, alcohol-saturated traditions, parties and food potentially lead to increased aggression, lower emotional sensitivity, irritability, anxiety and impulsiveness. Which in turn can lead to violent behaviour. While alcohol is not the cause of domestic violence, this cocktail of alcohol induced behaviors can exacerbate risk for the victim of domestic violence, who already encounter a violent perpetrator without the prior factors. As perpetrators and victims of domestic violence can be a spouse, relation or a child, then the extended period at home over the holidays enhances unwanted contact, and the potential for violent behavior.
What then, should be done? Domestic abuse and people’s lives at home look different in every situation but here are two suggestions.
Firstly, if you do not live at home, and do not wish to return then do not try and fit yourself into the norm. If you feel you must return, as we understand that some people do not feel as though they can ignore the pressures to do so, then try only to stay for a brief time. If you need a place to stay then go to a friend’s house, but do not place yourself alone with an abuser and do not tell them where you are staying if it can be helped.
Second, if you are close to a family member, who does not know about the violence and you feel like you can tell them, then do. They may be able to help you, and having someone on your side can provide strength or an escape, even temporarily. The holidays are also a time of celebration with friends. This may be the excuse you need to get away from a perpetrator, even if just for a few hours, especially if your partner usually controls your whereabouts.
Unfortunately this is not an easy fix. There is nothing ‘easy’ in regard to domestic violence. Moreover, neither of these situations may be applicable to a victim’s circumstances. However, our AINO chatbot can provide more in-depth information about domestic violence and how to stay safe. In this holiday season we wish you the best, and also to put yourself first and away from harm if you are at risk.