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Supporting Survivors during the Holiday Season

December 11, 2023 | Return to REACH Hub
Ver la página en Español: Apoyo a l@s sobrevivientes durante la temporada festiva

For many of us, the holidays are a time for joy and gathering with family and friends. Unfortunately, for survivors of domestic violence, the holidays do not necessarily offer an escape. In fact, statistics show that abuse increases on or around major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

It’s important to note that domestic violence is an ongoing pattern of controlling behavior, and some people choose to abuse every day of the year. Holidays don’t cause abuse, but there are a number of factors happening during the holidays that may change an abusive person’s patterns and make it more difficult for survivors to plan for their safety.

For example, with holiday breaks from work and school, abusive partners are more likely to be home than at other times of the year. For survivors connecting with resources like hotlines or local programs, the presence of their abusive partner can make it more difficult for them to safely and privately reach out.

The stress from holiday shopping, finances, planning, travel, and extended family dynamics may destabilize an already tenuous situation and make an abusive partner more likely to resort to violence. People are more likely to use alcohol or drugs when they don’t have to work, which may increase volatility. For survivors who are co-parenting children, holiday visitation schedules can also present safety challenges.

You may be wondering: what can be done to increase your safety or the safety of your loved ones? An important first step everyone can take is to learn about the signs and forms of abuse. Here are some things to look out for during the holidays:

  • Someone is wearing unusual or unseasonal clothing; this may signal they are covering up bruises or marks.
  • Someone’s reactions are different than usual.
  • A loved one is isolating themselves from family and friends more than they have in the past.
  • A loved one shows up late for plans or cancels at the last minute, more so than usual.
  • Someone can’t talk on the phone at home.
  • Someone’s partner talks over them to the point of shutting them down.
  • A loved one has a sudden lack of money or access to money or says that their partner controls the money.

Friends and family members who are worried about a loved one can create a safe space by speaking with the person one-on-one, expressing care, listening without judgment, and letting them know that help is available when they are ready. It can help survivors to feel connected to loved ones and to know that those people will continue to support them no matter what.

If you’re an advocate receiving calls from a survivor’s friend or relative—or if you are concerned that someone in your life is experiencing abuse, and you don’t know what to say or do—WomensLaw can help. You can find tips for Family, Friends, and Coworkers on Friends and relatives can also use the bilingual English/Spanish Email Hotline to get personalized information and referrals for themselves and their loved ones.