The holidays are often a time of joy and community, but for people in abusive relationships, the holidays can be dangerous. Spending time with family and friends, dealing with financial stress and traveling can make safety planning a challenge. Family and friends of survivors may also struggle to find ways to help or be supportive. We want to share a few thoughts for survivors and friends or family of survivors for making the holidays feel safer.
Many survivors feel isolated in their unhealthy or abusive relationships. Reaching out to family and friends can be an important step in healing and in feeling safer. Make a plan to keep checking in during the holidays. You can also create a code word, which allows the survivor to let someone know they need help without tipping off their partner. Be sure to agree on what action the code word calls for: does it mean you will call them, come over, contact the police, etc.?
It may feel instinctual for family or friends to say an abusive partner is not welcome at a holiday function. You have the right to say who is or isn’t welcome in your home, but emotional support and safety planning can help both you and the survivor to move forward. Keep in mind you can talk or chat with a Hotline advocate to figure out what will work best for you.
Abuse is about power and control, and many unhealthy or abusive partners may try to exert control by keeping their partners from spending time apart or with others. So, it can be helpful to brainstorm ways to get some space. If you’re a family member or friend, you might ask the survivor to go on a shopping trip or errand with you, go for a walk or workout, invite them to a religious celebration or have them help you with a chore or holiday prep activity. Finding a quiet space to be reflective and connect within yourself is essential. Listen carefully to hear the voice within you and let that voice tell you that you are worth more than abuse; you are a beautiful and special person. You are not alone.
The holiday season is stressful for many people, but getting through the holidays while experiencing abuse can feel really overwhelming. Taking time for your health and wellness can make a big difference in how you feel. Remind yourself that you are not alone. You can contact the Hotline anytime at 800-634-9893 or stop into our center to speak to an advocate or a clinician.
Seeing someone you care about being hurt is also stressful. Remind yourself that you can’t make decisions for someone else, but you can ask a survivor what they need and offer help. Sometimes what is needed is a compassionate ear; one without judgement. This could be the best Holiday gift of the Season!
At Project Woman, we believe everyone deserves a safe and healthy holiday. If you’d like help with safety planning or self-care this holiday season, call us anytime at 1-800-634-9893 or chat via our website at www.projectwomanohio.org and select the Contact Us section.
Laura Baxter, Executive Director, Project Woman