The pressures of celebrating the holidays sometimes causes tempers to flare, energy levels to soar and arguments to ensue, culminating in an explosion of domestic violence and abuse. Parties, celebrations and festivities are everywhere and the temptation for excess can be intoxicating. Alcohol, drugs, heightened emotions and the wrong combination of family members, are very often contributing factors in violent holiday explosions. In fact, the holiday season can be an exceptionally tough emotional period for many domestic violence victims, even children. Most loving mothers will do whatever is necessary to create a fun and festive holiday environment for her children, however, for children living in a home where violence occurs, very often, Christmas represents a prolonged period of trepidation due to the anticipation of violence.
It is quite logical that domestic violence will increase during this holiday season because every possible risk factor is in play these days: the struggling economy, the jobless rate, home foreclosures, the rising cost of necessities and the stress of the gift giving. According to experts, during the holidays, when many people are home from work and spending unusually long periods of time with an abusive partner, there can be a greater sense of anxiety and stress, thus resulting in a violent situation.
Domestic violence does not only affect husbands and wives and cohabitating partners. Domestic violence is a purposeful intimidation, assault, sexual assault, threat or other abusive behavior perpetrated by one family member, household member, or intimate partner against another. Children in homes where there is domestic violence are more likely to be abused and/or neglected and are by definition, victims of domestic violence. Even if a child is not physically harmed, they may have emotional and behavior problems as a result of their unfortunate, traumatic life experiences.
Domestic violence does not discriminate. It is as prevalent in lower-income families as it is in upper income families. The abusers and victims are minimally educated, as well as, multiple degree holders. The faces of domestic violence represent the entire spectrum of racial and cultural colors. Researchable data indicates that 1 out of 4 households are effected by domestic violence. However, those of us who passionately engage in domestic violence awareness and eradication, know that these numbers do not fully, nor accurately represent the incidences of domestic violence. Many occurrences are not reported to the police. The millions of calls made to local and national hotlines are anonymous and thus the content of the calls is not reported to the police or government agencies for statistical purposes.
Although the national statistics are minimal and inconclusive as to whether domestic violence increases on Christmas day, convincing statistics indicate that two weeks following Christmas and Thanksgiving, calls to domestic violence hotlines and the local police department increase. "One of the things that happens often is that people don't reach out [initially] because they think it's a family time and they ought to be staying together during the holidays. But we know that if you're staying together and it's a violent situation that's not necessarily the best thing for the family and the children," said Margaux Rooney with Women Escaping a Violent Environment.
In some regions, there is a measurable increase in domestic violence. According to the Jersey Evening Post, December is traditionally the worst time for domestic violence in New Jersey and last year a third of domestic incidents reported to the police that month occurred between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve." The Domestic Violence Action Center Director, Bill Hanrahan says, "Researchers have found that while domestic abuse increases by about 22 percent on Thanksgiving, it is really New Year's that is the biggest holiday of concern. Domestic violence rates increase by an incredible 32 percent during this holiday. Christmas ranks third with a 17 percent increase."
As a celebrity spokesperson for the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) and one who offers motivational seminars regarding domestic violence, I have learned from personal experiences and from talking to hundreds of victims, that there comes a point when action must be taken. Very often the action taken is the victim fleeing for safety. If a volatile relationship exists, the victim should pack a "U.R.O.K. Survival Kit", which I have created based on available data, NDVH information and personal experiences. Should an incident of domestic violence occur wherein the victim feels threatened and must escape immediately, the U.R.O.K Survival Kit will enable the victim to exercise a strategic plan of action. Being prepared and calm will reduce the understandable anxiety, fear and uncertainty associated with an escape from domestic violence. This kit should be concealed in the home, at work, with a trusted neighbor, friend or relative.
Tanya's U.R.O.K. Survival Kit: Money (including coins); a change of clothes for self and children; extra house and car keys; a copy of birth certificates for self and children; passports; medications and copies of prescriptions; insurance information; extra checks; a of copy credit card numbers; copy of legal documents such as marriage license, leases, house deeds, jointly owned assets, separation agreements, protection orders; recent pictures of self, children and abuser; print out of all important business and personal phone numbers; toiletries, a piece of valuable jewelry; a spiritual or motivational book; and sentimental toy(s). Conceal it in the home or leave it with a trusted neighbor, friend, or relative.
If you decide to remain in the home, I strongly suggest the following precautions and preparations:
- Decide on a safe place to go if an argument occurs; avoid rooms with no exits (bathroom) or rooms with weapons (kitchen) or upper/lower levels of the home
- Plan and practice how to get out safely. Determine what escape options are available: Stairwells, windows, elevators, doors, fire escapes, would you use?
- Identify people and places that will help you, i.e. the police, local domestic violence shelters, your church, hospital, your friend or neighbor
- Teach children what to do in case you are harmed or in immanent danger
- Teach your children how to use the cell phone and memorize important telephone numbers
- Teach children various codes that they would use if you need them to make telephone calls to obtain assistance from family and friends.
- Protect online information and email accounts
- Program your telephone with emergency numbers, i.e., police, neighbor, family member, and/or a friend.
- Ask a neighbor to contact the police if they hear fighting, screaming, unusually loud noises
- Pack a U.R.O.K. Survival Kit
In addition to the copies stored in your U.R.O.K Survival Kit, you should have the following items filed together in a convenient place. You should also have a copy of the following documents stored outside of the home.
- Birth Certificate for self and children
- Identification including Passport, Visa, Driver's License
- Recent Pictures of self, children and abuser
- Social Security Numbers for self and children
- Children's school/vaccination records
- Keys for house and car
- Medical Insurance cards
- Prescriptions for self and children
- House deed, lease, and rental agreements.
- Bank Records and Tax returns
- Drivers License/Registration/Insurance Cards
- Codes and passwords of all internet sites
If the holiday cheer is less than cheerful and domestic violence ensues, stay as calm as possible and exercise the safety plan you have established. Give the greatest gift of love, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE for yourself or someone you love.