Christmas Offers No Respite
Christmas offers no respite for domestic abuse victims who still live with their abusers and for survivors who have left. A recent online article in The Guardian highlights the reality for those still experiencing domestic abuse - the festive season does not provide a reprieve but just more of the same - a life walking on eggshells trying to avoid violence that can easily escalate at any time.
Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge states “[The festive period] tends to be a period when an abusive partner may be spending more time at home and monitoring her behaviour more closely than ever”.
For survivors who have left their abusive partners, the holidays can also be very difficult. They may be alone, or single parenting children who are distraught from having experienced an abusive family environment. She may feel pressured to ‘create a wonderful Christmas’ for the children while potentially having financially difficulties herself.
Survivors Experiences of Church Communities
And if a survivor is in a church community to which she and her abuser both still belong, the challenge might be watching friends and family engage and celebrate Christmas with the abuser like nothing has happened or pretend that the abuse is not still going on. Church communities, family and friends don’t realize that the consequences of abuse (or indeed the abuse itself) never ends at the end of the relationship. Christians who think the loving response is to give a 'free ride' over Christmas to an abuser don’t realize that this can be crushing to the survivor.
Family and friends may not understand the long term consequences of having lived through abuse and expect the woman to be happy, stable and even exuberant over the holidays when she actually feels fragile, stressed and overwhelmed. Christmas can bring a mix of emotions as well as triggering very distressing memories.
What Can You Do?
Support those you know who have experienced or are currently experiencing domestic abuse. Ask them privately what they might need emotionally or practically to help them over the holiday season.
Don’t give perpetrators a ‘free ride’ over the holidays because you feel sorry for them. In every interaction with the perpetrator you must ask yourself, ‘does my behaviour and words uphold the safety, sanity and dignity of the survivor or am I remaining complicit through my silence enabling the abusive behaviour to continue unchallenged?’
Domestic abuse and its consequences never go on holiday … our compassion and stand for survivors should never go on holiday either.
- What more can you do? Well start by educating yourself. Find out more here about what abuse is and what it looks like.
- Read a book review on The Family and Friends Guide to Domestic Violence by Elaine Weiss.
- If you would like to know more about our survivors’ community, or you would like to be part of this online community please email us here.
- As always, you can give regularly to Restored to enable us to continue to work with survivors, train churches, and produce free resources.