by Jessica Walsh, Executive Director, Women’s Resource Center
The problem of domestic violence can often be overlooked amid the distractions of the holiday season. The Women’s Resource Center sees this year after year and unfortunately, the pandemic has further compounded these problems. In this article, we go over what you can do to provide domestic violence support during the holidays, whether it’s how to identify domestic violence, or becoming an active bystander and what to do if someone you know discloses abuse.
Domestic violence explained
Especially for survivors of domestic violence, we know home is not always a safe place. While toxic family situations and domestic abuse can be interconnected, it’s important to note domestic violence is distinctly different from toxic issues with family members.
Violence is defined by a pattern of abusive behaviors used to establish and maintain power and control over another person. This abuse can affect intimate partners in a current or past relationship as well as family members from different households. The violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial, or psychological. It can include any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone, and this can happen to anyone – regardless of age, race, gender, religion, place of residence, or socioeconomic status.
“Home for the holidays” can spell danger for some
When folks talk about “home for the holidays,” we’re thinking about the many survivors of abuse and their children who are trapped in dangerous situations because they do not have access to safe, affordable housing options. As we think about ways to navigate toxic situations with family this holiday season, we’re also lifting up how survivors’ top needs continue to be the search for a safe place to live and thrive as they flee violence.
Women’s Resource Center: Domestic violence support during the holidays
At the Women’s Resource Center, we provide comprehensive, wrap-around services for victims and their families rebuilding their lives after abuse. This includes but is not limited to court advocacy, emergency shelter and transitional housing, counseling services and support groups. Trained advocates are available via the confidential statewide Helpline for all victims of crime 24/7, by calling 1-800-494-8100 or using the chat feature at www.HelplineRI.com.
How to be an active bystander
You don’t need to be an advocate to support survivors. We can all be active bystanders this holiday season and always. If someone you know may be experiencing domestic violence, reach out and listen without judgment. Be prepared to share resources with them, and understand that each survivor knows their own needs and situation best. It’s on all of us to end domestic violence.
Interested in understanding the difference between toxic situations and domestic violence? Check out our article on Surviving the Holidays with a Toxic Family.
Tips for helping survivors during the holidays and the pandemic
- If a family member, loved one, or someone you know discloses abuse, listen without judgment. Be ready to provide resources to them (Helpline, WRC hotline/contact). Let them know you are there for them.
- This is an especially important time to be an active bystander. If you think someone may be in an unsafe situation, reach out to the person. Let them know you care and are there to support them. Look out for loved ones, neighbors and colleagues for signs they may be experiencing abuse.
- During the pandemic, abuse may show up in different ways. Survivors may be isolated from their peers and family, they may not be responsive on social media or their phones if their time and devices are controlled by an abusive partner, and/or they may be staying home because their abuser is using the pandemic as a way to control their whereabouts.