The Myth of Holiday Domestic Violence
A quick search of the holidays and domestic violence gets you in on the world’s biggest secret – that instead of being a time of reconciliation and peace, it’s a time when domestic violence calls spike and abusers intensify their violence.
The trouble with this secret? It’s not true. And worse yet? It’s a danger to victims of domestic abuse. Here’s why.
Control Doesn’t Take a Vacation
While we want to shine a light on domestic violence, this myth hurts victims more than it helps them. To say that abuse increases over the holidays suggests that perpetrators of domestic violence have enough control to time attacks. The idea is that the stress of the season can be a trigger, and, while that is true, 10,000 things the entire year round could be a trigger – some of them completely unpredictable. For instance, if someone at work makes an abuser feel unimportant, if the abuser has been drinking, if jealousy becomes a factor, a domestic abuser could lash out. Any of these “ifs” can cause a flare of violence against loved ones, children, and partners.
And none of those triggers has anything to do with the abused and everything to do with the abuser.
While predicting triggers is specific to the abuser, what we do know is that those in domestic violence situations try hard to keep their families intact during this time of year. The holidays actually see fewer calls about domestic violence – and it’s not because abusers are less violent during the holiday season; it’s because people who suffer abuse are reluctant to break up their homes and move into a shelter during what the culture tells them is the happiest time of the year.
They wait, and, because it’s also a time of hope, they believe the person they love will change.
A true accounting of domestic violence during the holidays is impossible to know because so many victims are reluctant to call during these times. People want their families to stay together during the season, and they want to believe their loved ones can be better. We should all hope for the transformation of people who do such terrible things, but victims don’t have to live with them to wait for those changes.
The Month of Change
January is often when victims are ready to take a leap and leave situations of domestic violence. If you’re in an abusive relationship and are waiting until the New Year to make a change, remember that violence doesn’t take a holiday. Abuse may not be worse in December, but it’s not better. When someone you love acts violently toward you or your children, they won’t stop because the music is happy and more people smile.
To suggest that violence increases in December means that it’s not as bad in November or January, and that’s simply not the case. Violence doesn’t believe in Santa, and triggers are completely unpredictable. When we fall for the myth that abuse is bigger during one time period or another, we misunderstand the nature of violence – it’s a cycle, it’s often unpredictable, and you can’t trace it on a calendar.
Call Us No Matter What Time of Year
At the Women’s Center of Marquette, we want to help victims of abuse find a safe space, and we’re available during Christmas, on New Year’s, and any holiday between. We believe in PEACE – protection, education, advocacy, counseling, and empowerment. We wish you PEACE for this holiday, and each day that comes after.