Holiday Stress Adds to Domestic Abuse

by Olivia Grace Ward

Holidays are a happy time of year. Christmas lights beam through windows, roaring fires warm the soul. It is a time for peace. A time for new beginnings.

For many, however, that isn’t the feeling they carry in their hearts. Stress levels often rise during this time of year. Worrying about money and time with family members who may not get along well combined with more traffic, longer wait times at stores and banks, and everything else contributes to irritability.

When stress levels climb, the abuser is more likely to feel provoked quicker. Even the calmest of people may have a quicker temper, but they can deal with it. They may be more irritable, such as is the case with me, get tired quicker, avoid stores at busy hours, or take long naps and block out the world for awhile. For others, they have not learned to do that and strike out.

Women and children who have been abused in the past are affected deeply during the holidays. Christmas and the new year are times to reminisce, regroup, and look ahead, but for so many of us, it brings back painful memories.

A dear friend of mine was a victim of physical abuse as a child. She recently admitted to me she hates the holidays, not because of the stress, crowds, or financial strains, but because of the memories of abuse that can not be stopped.

As a young girl, my friend spent Christmas Eve in fear. She was expected to be prim and proper, polite, and acting like an adult, even though she was only ten. Any defect from the qualities her father expected of her was met with a lashing across the legs, or worse. For her, it went above being thankful and using good manners, it was about perfection.

She remembers vividly the year she was nine years old. She received the exact baby doll she had been wanting for months as a gift from her grandmother. In her exuberance, she jumped up from the couch, ran to her grandmother, hugged her hard, and said thank you over and over. Her father glared at her with malice instead of being thrilled to see his little girl happy at Christmas. Nothing was said and the evening continued. She still remembers the tension in the air.

Later that night, after the rest of the family left, her father beat her.

Throughout the years my friend learned to control the memories and keep them hidden. Slowly she learned to look forward to Christmas with childlike wonder she never had been able to express. Six years ago she met the man of her dreams. After her father’s abuse, she moved slowly, afraid to commit and afraid of the future. Three years later she believed him to be a gentle and caring man who would never raise a hand at her in anger. She was wrong.

Their first Christmas together was everything she wanted. They hung lights, decorated the home, shopped arm in arm. It was perfect, until Christmas Eve when he opened his gift.

She had saved a portion of her income each week for six months to purchase him a set of golf clubs. He loved to play and had a old set his father had left them. After a golf outing, he would complain his score wasn’t up to par because of the clubs. She couldn’t wait to treat him to a new, top of the line set.

“How dare you spend this money! This is too much. If you were going to spend this much, you could have at least bought a decent set instead of this piece of ****.” Her heart was broken by his words and she began crying. Instead of apologizing or consoling her, he picked up a club and threw it at her, missing her head by a mere two inches. Christmas morning, a time she had planned on spending with her husband and family, she packed everything she owned and moved in with a friend.

This is just one story. Many more women and children deal with abuse each day. For many, even if the abuse is in the past, their memories live on to destroy hope, peace, and love. If you know someone who has been abused, reach out to them during the holidays. Give them an extra kind word, a helping hand, or an encouraging hug. Take them out to lunch. Listen to them talk. Be there for them. Show them good does still exist and they can heal. Help them build new, wonderful memories of a Merry Christmas.

With each of us linking arms and hearts, even if only virtually, we can build a strong foundation that will stand against the harsh storm of abuse. Remembering those who are no longer with us due to domestic violence keeps their voice strong. Together, we can make the holidays a better time and take the power away from the abusers. Who’s with me? Are you ready to take a stand? It doesn’t have to be huge, and doesn’t even have to be public. Remember, a kind word to others and to yourself is the first step in winning. Let’s make this a new year worth remembering!

The Whisper of Subtle Abuse – How to Recognize the Signs

Domestic Abuse. When you hear those words what do you think? Beating? Brutality? Being thrown across the room? Black eyes and broken bones? GPS system added on your vehicle so spouse can keep tabs on you, or a spouse keeping track of your mileage? The words domestic abuse conjure different visions for each of us.

Abuse isn’t always what meets the eye. It is often subtle, so subtle the victim may not even realize they are being abused. It is a silent killer – not of the human body, but of the human soul, heart, and mind. It strips one down to nothing, a little piece at a time. It is a mind game, and if we are not aware and do not stop it, it destroys.

All relationships have rough patches. There is nothing wrong with your partner checking on you if you are an hour late. In fact, that is often sweet because it shows concern. It is important to share trust in a relationship; therefore, calling to say, “Hey, I’m going out for awhile and I will be late,” is essential. When a friendship causes a partner concern, whether concerns about cheating, bad influences, or making poor decisions, your partner has the right to discuss those with you, and you have the responsibility to listen. This is not abuse, but the ups and downs nuances of relationships. Abuse goes much deeper.

The subtle abuse often starts as concern and in the beginning, we may be flattered. When my husband and I began getting serious, I loved that he cared enough about me to want to know where I was all the time and wanted to spend all our free time together. I had come through a rough marriage and had been lonely and felt abandoned, so for a man to want my attention was a high. I loved that he sent me texts all day, and called at least once an hour. I was wanted and that was all that mattered. It never occurred to me I was being controlled. In fact, I felt more like myself than ever, because I was important to someone.

Over the last year, I have opened my eyes and see the obvious. I was abused. Some will shake their head and think I am overreacting. That’s okay. They aren’t involved in my daily, personal life and have a right to their own opinion. Some, however, will say it is about time I see things clearly. Their opinions no longer matter, either way. My opinion, my safety, my well-being, my emotional status, and my children’s comfort is what is important and what I will fight for.

Below are some signs of abuse. You may recognize a few in your own life, or have more to add. All our situations are different, just as no relationship is written in black and white.

  • Calling repeatedly – There have been days I could not get my house clean for answering phone calls and texts. A call or two through the day to say hello is great. Consistent calling is not.
  • Getting upset when a text or call isn’t answered immediately – If I left my phone in the other room and did not answer immediately, I received the third degree. “Who were you talking to?” “What were you doing?” “Why didn’t you answer?” There is nothing wrong with needing a little space or being busy. Do not accept this behavior.
  • Calling or texting within fifteen minutes of you leaving – I went to WalMart one night with my kids. I had barely started shopping when I received a call asking what aisle I was on, what I was looking at, etc. This, my friends, is control!
  • Not wanting you to go out with friends – Even if they do not say no, their body language, expressions, and questions says it loud enough to be clear. Ladies, you have a right, and a need, to go out from time to time. Your partner should and must understand this basic need.
  • Constantly telling you what you do wrong – “Don’t put salt in that.” “Why are you using that pan?” “Why did you park here? There is a space over there?” The list goes on and on. And yes, I have been asked all these questions, which is why for the last five years I have not cooked!
  • Being prevented from doing what you need to do– My ex never once told me I could NOT do something, but he sure pushed me about it without coming right out and saying it. For example, if I was cleaning, he would turn on the television and ask me to watch a movie. I could have said no, but his commanding demeanor had me controlled and I did as he requested. This is wrong! It was a mind game, even if he didn’t see he was doing it.