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Do Domestic Abuse Rates Rise Over the Holidays?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

For many, Thanksgiving is a special time for family and friends to come together, break bread and enjoy each other's company. However, the holiday season can be a uniquely challenging period for victims of domestic violence.

Statistically speaking, though, are the holidays a particularly dangerous time of the year when it comes to domestic abuse?

Holiday Abuse Rates Unclear

While anecdotal evidence may suggest a spike in domestic abuse between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, there is no singular study or set of data that clearly establishes a higher or lower rate of domestic abuse during the holidays, according to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.

A 2005 study on intimate partner violence (IPV) in Idaho found that reported incidents of domestic abuse actually fell below the year-round average on Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. But reports of abuse in Idaho were higher than average on New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day.

The study's authors speculate that IPV is more likely to spike on holidays when use of alcohol increases, depending on the sentiments attached to that day. (But as the study focused on Idaho, it may not be representative of the country as a whole.)

Meantime, the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) reports a drop in call volume during the Thanksgiving holidays as well as the overall holiday season (December 15 to January 1). In fact, they experience a significant drop in call volume -- by about 50 percent -- on the actual holidays themselves, according to the NRCDV.

But that's not a definitive finding either.

For example, the holiday season is the busiest period for The Refuge House emergency shelter in Tallahassee, Florida. They report November to January as their busiest time for both emergency hotline calls and requests for assistance, according to Tallahassee's WCTV-TV.

"During the holiday season it might be more likely that the abuser to perceive a loss of power and control which in turn will trigger that abuser to be more violent," Community Outreach Coordinator Jessica Pinto told WCTV.

Prevention Tips

Regardless of statistics, domestic abuse victims may want to err on the side of caution and take extra safety precautions during the holidays.

To minimize the possibility of violent confrontations during the holidays, consider the following:

  • Identify easy exits, no matter where you are;
  • Establish "code words" for kids to signal a potential problem;
  • Avoid arguments in the kitchen; and
  • Become familiar with how to obtain a restraining order.

For additional help with exploring your legal options, consider consulting an experienced domestic violence attorney near you.

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