For many who live with domestic violence, Christmas becomes an exercise in walking on eggshells. The holidays are an added stress, focus is turned away from the abuser, social expectations are high, happiness is expected and the abuser has to put his (or her) mask firmly in place. This means that when the mask can come off, during or after the holidays, it often comes off in a very nasty way.
Many abuse victims try to hold it together for the holiday, no one wants to “ruin” the holiday with a breakup of a relationship, or a marriage, especially if there are children involved.
Lily planned to separate from her husband after Christmas, she wanted to give her children one last happy family holiday. She didn’t want to have future holidays ruined by their separation. She was killed on the night of Dec. 22.
I was hoping my marriage would last, I was hoping things would improve, but it all fell apart at Christmas, and I told him to leave on Dec 26. He yelled at me for spending money gifted to me for presents on presents; he threw our oldest child at the couch on Christmas morning before gift opening; criticized me in front of my family all day; and, finally, punched our oldest on the leg in church the next day. Those are just the highlights of that Christmas.
Christmas is hard.
Christmas in an abusive home is not full of peace, joy and love. Christmas is filled with anxiety, fear, helplessness and the feeling of being trapped. It’s the hardest time of year to walk away.
I did some research today. I believed that Christmas increased the calls for domestic violence, but discovered that statistically, women leave shelters to return home in order to give their children a happy Christmas. Some, but not enough, will return after Christmas. Christmas brings hope that love will conquer all. Another interesting statistic is that reports of domestic violence do not rise during Christmas, but there is a surge of calls after the New Year, after things have settled down; when it’s safe for the masks to fall off.
Remember that not everyone finds Christmas easy. There are things happening behind the scenes that affect moods, behaviours and decisions. Abuse is something living with us, seen or not, it affects someone YOU know. Be aware. Talk to your loved ones. be a support, help them know their value. You cannot force someone to leave an abuser, but you can build their self-esteem so they can make that choice for themselves.
I wish you a Merry Christmas. I pray it’s a safe one for you and all those you love.