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How to Handle Domestic Violence at Christmas

Regardless of what holiday you’re celebrating at this time of the year it’s filled with happiness. Or is it? Obviously this depends upon who you ask but for those who are victims of domestic violence it’s a pretty safe bet that they’d say no. Domestic abuse victim advocates have found that this isn’t only true for those who find themselves amidst a potentially violent situation, but also for those who’ve left an abusive situation. This is especially true if there are children because quite frequently one parent isn’t in the picture any longer and money is tight.

Why is domestic violence advocacy training so important throughout the holidays?

Statistics show that the holidays bring a special kind of hell to both victims and survivors of domestic violence. Those who are still in abusive situations have additional stress at this time of the year because their abusers have more time off of work and may be partaking of drugs and alcohol. However, even if someone has managed to leave an abusive situation behind they may still be struggling due to financial hardships that leave them unable to buy presents for their kids.In either scenario, the person who’s been abused is likely to report to domestic violence advocates that they find themselves having to pretend that everything was fine whenever they’re around people during the holidays. When this happens both victims and survivors are less likely to celebrate the holidays.

Parents especially find it difficult to face the holidays. Many people are no longer in contact with their families because their abuser has driven a wedge between them. Therefore, their children are unable to visit with these family members. Single parents also find themselves having to explain to their children why their other parent isn’t able to join in their holiday celebrations.

What can domestic violence advocates do?

Those who have domestic violence advocacy training are able to be especially impactful at this time of the year. This is because domestic violence advocates know that while some people are planning family gatherings and festivities, others are experiencing the most difficult times of their lives. As a domestic abuse victim advocate here’s how you can help this Christmastime:

  • Acknowledge the person’s strength in telling you about their situation.

  • Remind them that nothing they do or say justifies the abuser’s behavior.

  • Don’t tell them what to do but if they’ve suffered any physical harm, strongly encourage them to seek medical attention (and accompany them as they do so).

  • Help them create their own boundaries.

  • Allow them to use your address and phone number when reaching out for help.

  • Be on standby in case their situation becomes so volatile that they need immediate help.

  • Offer to be a witness if a situation arises when you’re present but never intervene without backup.

  • Provide a random act of kindness for them (e.g., send them some cookies, offer to get them groceries).

  • Maintain regular contact with them throughout the season.

While having domestic violence advocacy training so that you can be a domestic violence advocate is important, so is taking care of yourself. Make sure you don’t overlook this fact throughout the holidays. It’s OK to tell the people around you that you need support too.

What can domestic violence victims do? 

Christmas is difficult with all you’re going through right now, but there are some things you can (and I highly recommend that you do) do this year, including: 

  • Make sure you have 911, the National Domestic Violence hotline (800-799-7233), and the phone number of someone close to you on speed dial. If you’re afraid you won’t have your phone with you, make sure you memorize these phone numbers.

  • Create a “safe” word or phrase with your close friend so they know you’re in a violent or emergency situation.

  • Domestic abuse victim advocates strongly encourage you to always have your phone and some money on you.

  • Try to spend as much time as possible with other people so your perpetrator is less likely to become violent and if they do, there’s someone there to witness it.

  • Attempt to walk away from a potentially volatile situation so as to diffuse it.

What can domestic violence survivors do? 

As a survivor Christmastime can be truly challenging. This is especially true if you’ve just left behind your abusive situation or are a single parent with children. There are some things that you can do to make this time of the year less stressful for yourself, including:

  • Create boundaries for yourself. A healthy part of this lies in saying “No,” even though this can be really difficult to do.

  • Spend some time creating new memories with the people you love.

  • Prioritize self-care because one of the best gifts you can give yourself is love. 

  • Take some time to get away. Whether you go on a short trip or just take a walk in nature without anyone else around, it’s a good way to refresh yourself.

  • Volunteer to help others who may be experiencing domestic violence at this time of year.

  • Don’t spend too much time on social media.

  • Remember yourself that you’re strong and you’ll survive this.

For more information about domestic violence or if you’re interested in domestic violence advocacy training, Healing Family Trauma Pittsburgh is here to help. A member’s only section dedicated to domestic violence advocacy training will open January 1, 2024. None of this would be available without support from people like you.

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