For most people, the holidays are full of family gatherings, traditional meals, gift exchanges and a number of activities that celebrate religious and/or cultural heritage. Holidays often inspire warm feelings and excitement. But the holidays can also bring added stress to relationships, creating situations that give rise to domestic violence.
Added Holiday Pressure
Although we may look forward to the winter holidays all year long, they do bring added stress. Common holiday stressors include:
- Holiday gatherings require special preparations—trips to the store, house cleaning, frequent back-and-forth communication with invited guests, etc. However, there is usually no change in regular daily routines and work schedules, leaving people with more to do but no more time to do it. Numerous research studies point out that most working adults already feel overwhelmed by their jobs and household responsibilities. Tacking on more to-dos just increases the burden.
- The holidays are portrayed by popular media as times of peace and family togetherness. For people who have unresolved conflicts with members of their family, there is pressure to put aside differences and relax boundaries—to just get along. Many families with small children feel pressure to keep both sides of the family happy by participating in traditional get-togethers, no matter the inconvenience or cost of travel, and sacrifice of “down time.”
- No matter what the family dynamic, the holidays put people in a kind of pressure-cooker, and feeling the need to keep up appearances just makes matters worse.
- Gifts are a central part to many celebrations. For families already feeling constricted by their budgets, additional expenses for holiday gifts increases the financial strain. This stressor is particularly intense for heads of households who may already feel the pressure of being the family breadwinner.
Alone, these holiday stressors are often enough to incite domestic violence. But because so many holiday celebrations also involve alcohol, there is an even higher risk of impulsive outbursts that may result in the verbal and/or physical assault on a close family member.
Although more work, family pressure, financial strain and increased alcohol consumption create a recipe for increased domestic violence around the holidays, statistical data does not reflect such an increase. Most data supporting the idea that holidays lead to more incidents of domestic violence is anecdotal. Does that mean there really isn’t a problem?
That there are not significantly higher reports of domestic violence around the holidays is actually telling of just how strong people feel the need to maintain the status quo. Victims of domestic violence do not want to split families apart, sometimes for the sake of the children, sometimes to avoid the loneliness that holidays may exacerbate.
The holidays do bring about family stress; however, it is often felt after the holidays are over. Reports of domestic violence and family law cases significantly increase in January and February.
Additional holiday stress does contribute to domestic violence, but domestic violence rarely happens out of the blue. Risk factors and warning signs are usually present long before the holiday season. An increased risk of domestic violence may be signaled by a partner who has been or is currently:
- Jealous (including jealous of your relationships with your family of origin)
- Experiencing more frequent outbursts of anger
- Expressing violence—e.g., throwing or breaking things—during angry outbursts
If you observe any of these warning signs in your partner, be proactive about your personal safety. Recognize the signs early and leave any situation before it escalates. Have phone numbers of police, domestic violence resources and trusted friends ready and identify a safe location you can escape to in the event of assault.
Domestic violence is not something that you have to endure at any time of year. If you or someone you love is the victim of domestic violence, seek help immediately. If you need legal assistance, please contact the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer for a consultation.