Domestic Violence and the Holidays

Woman in a winter coat walking on a snowy road.

After Heather left her abuser, she felt sad, depressed, and unsure about her future. She also struggled with the challenges of being a single parent and the costs of building a new life.

“The holidays are usually full of joy and love and happiness, but inside I felt I had little of these things. The idea of giving my children the happy holiday experience seemed daunting and I even considered skipping Christmas altogether.”

Survivors experience many different feelings during this time of year. Instead of joy, the holidays may bring triggering memories, unhealthy family gatherings, despair or loneliness. Survivors may also struggle with how to build new traditions after leaving their abuser. Or they may feel pressured stay in an abusive relationship through the holidays.

For others, the holidays may be a time to create new traditions or find happiness in new places. Celebrating the holidays became part of Heather’s healing process. Heather’s advocate signed her up for the Holiday Shop so she could pick out toys for her daughters and a gift card for herself.

“I left LifeWire that day with something more than just gifts for my children, I left with hope. That Christmas turned out to be amazing! It was our first abuse-free Christmas and it was full of the girls’ laughter and smiles.”

Everyone’s experiences and history with the holidays is unique. You can help survivors by following their lead. If they’re having a difficult time and don’t feel like celebrating, tell them you’re there to listen and support them. You can also refer to them LifeWire’s 24-hour helpline. If a survivor wants to gush about everything they will be doing with their family and kids, great, celebrate that with them.

Many people assume that domestic violence spikes during the holidays, but it doesn’t. Unfortunately, domestic violence is a year-round problem. Seasonal stresses like family gatherings, tight finances, and alcohol may add tension to an already abusive situation, but they do not cause domestic violence. Abuse is always an intentional behavior.