Something interesting happens every Thanksgiving (and every Christmas Day): our Crisis Line becomes very quiet. The number of calls from women who are being abused takes a significant drop.
You might think that puts smiles on our faces, but it doesn’t. We know exactly what’s happening. Some women are taking a deep breath and putting up with bad behavior in an abusive relationship so the children in their home can have a “nice” holiday. Others are enjoying a momentary respite from violence, as they’re surrounded by family and friends, and abusers rarely act out with witnesses around. Sure enough, after the holidays pass, the number of calls spikes. Domestic violence does not just go away.
There are other factors that contribute to that increase. Face it, the holidays can be one of the most stressful times of the year. We like to think of Thanksgiving and Christmas as happy times … and there are certainly joyful moments … but there are also challenges. It’s a time of financial stress for many families. Often, family members may drink more than normal. Long-simmering disagreements and jealousies may explode into vicious arguments. And the days following holiday joys can be an emotional letdown. All of those situations can trigger abuse.
If you’re facing abuse, or you suspect that a friend or family member is in an abusive situation, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of violence. The most important is having a safety plan. That can include having safe places to go if domestic violence becomes a problem, knowing how to exit the house without the abuser’s knowledge, and having code words for children so they can escape to a safe place if abuse flares up.
As noted earlier, most abusers won’t do anything when witnesses are around, so another way to stay safe is to make sure you’re always around other people. Even if the abuser becomes violent, the behavior probably won’t be as intense with others around. Group activities can help, but simple steps such as making sure you’re not alone in a room with the abuser are important.
It can also help to find an ally. If there’s a friend or relative who will be around during the holidays, ask in advance if they’ll be willing to keep an eye on you and support you if a situation becomes violent. (You can also be that ally for someone else.)
Finally, remember that our Crisis Line is here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and that includes Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our staff members respond to those calls and help people find the help and resources they need to protect themselves or others they care about. If you know someone who is being abused, make sure they have our number. It’s 317-745-1496.
We wish you a blessed holiday season, and we’re thankful for you and the many others who pray for an end to domestic violence. As you count your own blessings, please don’t forget the people who created Sheltering Wings, the staff and volunteers who serve women and children, and the donors and supporters who ensure that needs are addressed in a safe and supportive women’s shelter. And most of all, give thanks that women find the courage and strength to see a way out of domestic abuse.