Domestic Violence and the Holidays

Woman in a winter coat walking on a snowy road.

Struggling during the holidays

After Heather left her abusive partner, 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 a 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 to build new traditions after leaving their abusive partner. Or they may feel pressured to stay in an abusive relationship through the holidays.

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 intentional behavior.

The holidays may also 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 LifeWire Holiday Shop to pick out toys for her daughters and a gift 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.