Domestic violence and the holidays
by Christina Hays
During the holiday season everyone falls under pressure to have that picture perfect Thanksgiving and Christmas. As Thanksgiving comes to a close and shopping begins, the season of giving is here. The Hallmark Channel plays non-stop Christmas movies. Everyone starts to feel magic in the air. The holidays bring a renewed sense of hope that only comes when we truly believe anything can happen.
For the person fleeing domestic violence, the first holiday season hurts the most. Everyone seems happy, and picture perfect families are everywhere you turn. The realization that your family will never be one of them brings heartbreak and pain. Remembering self-care is crucial at this time. It is okay to say no if you do not think you can stand being somewhere that brings hurt. You do not have to share another holiday with a person who hurt you, but you may have to share your children. Fear sets in about what they will experience. Once again your family is put in a situation without control.
Focusing on new traditions can help. Decorate an extra tree, make cookies from scratch, read a different story every night with your children, call friends and have a game night or stay in and watch a comedy instead of those Christmas movies that make you cry. Any of these things can start to make your holiday seem less lonely. Remember that you are not the only one experiencing this pain. One in four women report domestic violence. Reach out to your local program and attend a support group. Talk to a domestic violence advocate about the pain you are experiencing.
The most important thing to remember is you are in control of how you are going to experience your holidays. This can seem overwhelming at first when you have not had control, but it can be liberating. Start by making small choices, make to-do lists or a pros and cons list. Try bringing back some of the traditions you were not allowed to have while in that controlling relationship. Remember what you enjoyed before and make new memories to cherish.
The Holidays bring about a spirit of forgiveness. Use this time to repair bridges with family and friends that may have been severed due to isolation. Strengthen your relationships with work friends and reach out to your community. There could be local church or civic groups that have special projects that need volunteers.
No one should have to live in fear at home. Crisis Services of North Alabama provides free, confidential support to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. CSNA holds weekly support groups and offers crisis counseling. We can be reached locally at 256-574-5826 or on our 24 hour HELPline at 256-716-1000. If you or someone you know is struggling this Holiday season because of intimate partner violence, please contact us. We can help.