Domestic Violence during holidays does occur, but does it increase?

Domestic Violence or Intimate Partner Violence does not take a break, time off or rest during the holiday season. But does it increase? Is there an increase in Domestic Violence (also known as Intimate Partner Violence) from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day? The short answer is-  yes and no. There are mixed and contradictory results regarding whether or not Domestic Violence during holidays increases. A 2010 University of Pennsylvania study confirmed what a former study had concluded- that Intimate Partner Violence incidents increase on Major American Holidays.

With Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day all being Major American Holidays, it is easy to see how this could result in an increase of incidents. While in contrast, a report from 2014 and the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence states that “A comparison of average call volume to holiday call volume indicates that that the number of calls actually decreases during the holidays, including on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.” There are many speculations or theories as to why the change in Domestic Violence incidents over the holiday season, but one thing is a fact: Intimate Partner Violence is never ok, and there is help. 

Take a look below for five things to consider about Domestic Violence trends over the holidays:

1. Reports = Statistics

It’s important to realize that for us to have statistics on trends regarding Domestic Violence, then reports have to be made. Perhaps over the holiday season, people report less. Maybe they are fearful of retaliation with the perpetrator in the home more often over the holiday season. Maybe they don’t want to disturb their children’s holiday experience. Whatever the reason- it could simply be that incidents of Domestic Violence are less REPORTED over the holiday season, not necessarily occur less. 

2. Proximity

During the holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Years) families are usually around each other more. People take off from work, they travel with each other or just in general work less. This may mean that they are around each other more often- during what could be a stressful time of the year. The idea that people who participate in Domestic Violence are around their partner’s more often, for longer periods of time- could have an impact on an increase in incidents over this time period. 

3. Increase in Alcohol/Substance intake

This time of year is associated with parties, get-togethers and holiday cheer. Perhaps during this time period people are more likely to drink alcohol- to “have another” when they don’t have to work in the morning. While alcohol or substance use is never an excuse for Domestic Violence- we do know that one’s reality is skewed and inhibitions are down when mind altering substances are involved. This could cause overreaction or impulsivity. 

4. Keeping up Appearances

The holiday season usually comes with more time around family and friends. There could be a desire to “keep up appearances” or to be “one big happy family” when presenting to friends and family. Holiday parties or work events can also have the same effect. Perhaps there is less Domestic Violence during the holidays because people are trying to make it seem like everything is ok. Maybe there are extended family members in the home over that period of time that may inhibit an abuser acting out. 

5. It’s Stressful

The holidays can be merry and bright, but for some people they are filled with stress and expectations. Perhaps the stress or worry or pressure of the holidays can cause an increase in Domestic Violence incidents. There is the pressure of money and gifts and events- high expectations can lead to disappointment. 

Domestic Violence is a sensitive, personal and deeply traumatic experience that does not discriminate based on ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identification. Whether it’s during the holidays or on a Tuesday night- intimate partner violence is never ok. If you or a loved one are experiencing intimate partner violence, consider reaching out to an organization that helps survivors of relationship abuse. There are many different resources- ranging in anonymity. It could be an individual relationship coach, a healthy relationship workshop or just a person to talk to. There is help out there- 365 days a year.

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