The holiday season can be stressful.
Between entertaining relatives, cooking family dinners, shopping for gifts, budgeting money and many other events, the stretch from Halloween to New Year’s Day can mean extra tension in people’s lives.
But for some families and couples, the holidays can also mean something else: domestic violence.
In the Williamsburg area, police and experts on domestic violence say increased stress, substance use and more time at home can exacerbate existing domestic situations.
With Christmas just around the corner, those experts are also giving advice on how to stay safe during the holiday season, as well as providing resources for those affected by domestic violence.
Dangers during the holidays
Local police do not statistically see an increase in domestic violence during the holidays, but domestic violence experts still say holiday stressors can incite dangerous situations.
James City County Police spokeswoman Stephanie Williams said police have received between 23 and 28 domestic violence calls each November and December since 2014.
“The holidays can just create more opportunity for it to happen,” Avalon Center Director of Outreach Services Juanita Graham said. “Some people increase their substance use, and people are spending more time together.”
Graham said domestic violence is about “power and control” and can happen at any time, but particular stressors during the holidays increase the risk.
Graham said Avalon has also “anecdotally” found that some survivors do not come forward or seek help during the holidays.
“They want to preserve the holiday traditions and enjoy the holiday together,” Graham said.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, some of the signs of an abusive relationship include a partner who:
- Tells you that you can never do anything right
- Shows extreme jealousy of your friends and time spent away
- Keeps you or discourages you from seeing friends or family members
- Insults, demeans or shames you with put-downs
- Controls every penny spent in the household
- Takes your money or refuses to give you money for necessary expenses
- Looks at you or acts in ways that scare you
- Controls who you see, where you go, or what you do
- Prevents you from making your own decisions
- Tells you that you are a bad parent or threatens to harm or take away your children
- Prevents you from working or attending school
- Destroys your property or threatens to hurt or kill your pets
- Intimidates you with guns, knives or other weapons
- Pressures you to have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually you’re not comfortable with
- Pressures you to use drugs or alcohol
Know your resources
Domestic violence is a year-round problem, but experts have released holiday resources for survivors as Christmas nears.
James City County Alliance on Violence Against Women released a “holiday toolbox” for survivors of domestic violence. The toolbox contains information and resources from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.
“No matter what time of the year, the [Alliance on Violence Against Women] remains actively focused on creating an effective [coordinated community response] that ensures assistance, support, and encouragement are available for them always,” Shakira Munden, project coordinator for the James City County Alliance on Violence Against Women, said.
The Avalon Center has several tips for domestic violence survivors:
- Always have a safety plan
- Identify a safe place to stay in the event you need to leave, including the homes or friends and family or an emergency shelter
- If you know some stressors can be issues, try to minimize the things that can exacerbate the tension as much as possible
- Practice self-care techniques
- Be aware of community resources and have a support system
Avalon provides many resources to survivors of domestic violence, including an emergency shelter and educational programs. On average, Avalon serves about 25 residents monthly at their shelter. Last year, the center provided help to 1,300 clients through the shelter, outreach and youth services.
Other services include crisis intervention, counseling, group programming, case management, legal advocacy, hospital accompaniment, prevention resources, supervised visitation, custody exchanges and summer camps.
“There’s nothing thematic or common about the traumatic realities experienced by [domestic violence] victims at any time,” Munden said. “We encourage victims to seek professional assistance to break the cycle of violence.”
Want to get involved?
Donations can be made online, mailed to Avalon’s P.O. box or brought to the Outreach Office. Volunteers can contact the outreach office.
P.O. Box 6805, Williamsburg, Va.
Outreach Office Address: 3206 Ironbound Road, Suites B & D, Williamsburg, VA 23188
24-hour helpline: 757-258-5051