Domestic violence does not take a break for the holidays, and strained families who gather together should be aware of its warning signs and the resources available to help them. Many survivors in a situation of domestic violence try to stick it out during the holidays.
“We typically see a decrease in the number of calls over the holidays. Our agency sees an increase of these calls and an increase of people coming into our shelter after the New Year,” Jessye Johnson, Executive Director of Verde Valley Sanctuary, said.
The Verde Valley Sanctuary provides safety, services, and comfort to survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
“We know domestic violence never takes a break for the holidays. The reality is abuse is never dormant. The holidays tend to be a stressful time of the year, and unfortunately, stress can increase volatility in a relationship where domestic violence is present.,” Johnson said.
“The adage that ‘there is no place like home for the holidays’ holds true, even for survivors of domestic violence. We typically hear families say they try harder to stay together for the holidays,” she said. “The reality is that no one wants to have to leave their home with their children ever, but especially so this time of year.”
In making the decision to leave a situation of domestic violence, Johnson added every family is unique.
“It is taken case-by-case, and we also know the harsh reality that a survivor is at their most dangerous time when they leave their abusive partner. Their risk of physical violence and intimate partner homicide increases exponentially at that time. Survivors know best and are expert in their own lives. Our advocates are trained to support the survivor with whatever needs they may have. If they believe they are safest in the home, we’re going to develop safety plans with them to make them the safest they can be in the current environment that they are choosing,” she said.
“Maybe the stresses of the holidays and the stresses of their relationships and the stresses of their home environment just culminate and come to a head. Maybe they’ve made it through the holidays and maybe that was a goal someone had, to at least get through the holidays,” she said. “We are here if they stay, and if and when they make the decision to leave.”
Johnson said Verde Valley Sanctuary deals with cases of physical and psychological abuse, verbal and emotional abuse, economic abuse, and other forms of abuse that encompass domestic violence. Domestic violence can occur in the context of all types of intimate partner relationships including opposite and same-sex partner relationships, marital and extramarital relationships, and survivors can be male, female, or any other gender. She said friends, family, and bystanders have a role in detecting domestic violence dynamics and being a source of support.
“It’s important to keep an open mind. Domestic violence is not just the stereotypical black eye on a woman,” Johnson said.
Johnson advises friends who suspect domestic violence is taking place to remain non-judgmental and try to have a calm conversation in a supportive way to build and maintain trust and not blame the survivor. They may also share information about Verde Valley Sanctuary and its 24-hour hotline at 928-634-2511. She said callers can remain anonymous.
For more information about the Verde Valley Sanctuary or to make a donation, please contact Community Development Director Tracey McConnell at (928) 282-2755 or firstname.lastname@example.org.