Mon | Dec 5, 2016

Beating domestic violence this Christmas

Published:Wednesday | December 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Janelle Oswald, Gleaner Writer

Christmas and the festive season is meant to be a joyful occasion for the whole family to come together and spread the spirit of peace, love, and happiness.

However, for many couples and families, Christmas is the worst time of year.

Tensions over money and unrealistic expectations about having the perfect Christmas, combined with excessive alcohol, consumed in an enclosed space, are the perfect remedy for a festive fight.

For many children this Christmas, instead of opening presents, singing songs, and playing games, they might be made to feel small, insignificant, and frightened - caught between the constant rowing from their parents or guardians.

Calling for persons to spare a thought for families challenged by domestic violence and to remember those who are less fortunate, author of three bestselling books, Kim Bacchus, said: "Do not let domestic violence become an out-of-sight, out-of-mind issue."

Added the domestic violence survivor: "Be a hero this Christmas. Help someone suffering from domestic violence."

Risk factors

Explaining why Christmas and the New Year always see an increase in domestic violence, Bacchus, who is from Guyana, told The Gleaner: "It is quite logical that domestic violence will increase during this holiday season because every possible risk factor is in play these days - the struggling economy, the jobless rate, home foreclosures, the rising cost of necessities and the stress of gift giving, not forgetting the increased consumption of alcohol."

She added: "More to the fact, during the holidays, when many people are home from work and spending unusually long periods of time with an abusive partner, there can be a greater sense of anxiety and stress that results in a violent situation."

Noting that she was in an abusive relationship for eight years, the mother of one, who is now an international life transformation coach and stress management and domestic violence awareness expert, explained that she did not even realise that she was a victim.

"I had no idea what domestic violence was or that I was actually a victim of domestic violence. I found out when one day I switched the TV on and Oprah Winfrey was doing a show on domestic violence," she said. "I watched, thinking, 'Those poor women'. Only when they were describing what was happening to them, I started to identify with them. I was horrified".

Remembering how she felt, she added: "I always felt like I was walking on eggshells around him, constantly watching what I said and did in order to avoid a blow-up. I always felt belittled and controlled by him and had feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation. Christmas was always the worst time of year."

Men can be abused

Dispelling the myth that domestic violence only affects women during the holidays, Bacchus told The Gleaner: "Yes, men can be abused exactly like women. Domestic violence does not discriminate."

She added: "Men are embarrassed to admit and openly tell someone that they are a victim of abuse at the hands of their female partner. After all, society dictates that a man should be strong and the head of the household."

Global statistics indicate that victims of domestic violence will, on average, be assaulted 20 to 30 times before they ever get help.

One in every three women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and one woman is beaten by her husband or partner every 15 seconds world-wide.

"These stats are shocking. This is a global issue. We all come from women because we have mothers, not forgetting daughters, sisters, aunties, and nieces. We must protect our girls. They are the future. If we don't tackle these issues, the cycle will never end for some families.

"I would advise any victim to get help and confide in someone who can offer proper professional assistance. Begin the New Year stress free. No more fighting and arguing, but with a peace of mind.

"Educate yourself on what is domestic violence - understanding what you are dealing with.

"Get an emergency bag ready, packed, and hidden in case you need to get out in a hurry. Have clothes for you and your children, some but not all of your money, a key to the car, and your mobile phone. If you fear for your life and need to leave the house in a moment's notice, you want to be prepared.

"Know where you will be going when you leave. This may seem like an obvious thing, but when you are in the moment, it may be difficult to think. If you're planning to stay with a friend or family member, make sure you have a key to their home. If you are leaving during an emergency situation, you'll need a way to get inside if they aren't home."

How to protect the children

Don't forget the children this Christmas. Talk to them and be real. Tell them that:

What is happening is not OK

It's not your fault

It must be scary for you

I will listen to you

I'm sorry you had to see/hear it

You do not deserve to have this in your family

There is nothing you could have done to prevent it/change it

Talk about their feelings

Show understanding

Show love

Typical signs of an abuser to look out for

Charmers - Initially, they shower their partners with praise, adoration, and attention. Their courtship is sweet and intense, filled with phrases such as "I can't live without you". They quickly push for an exclusive relationship or engagement.

The jealous type - They view everyone as a threat to the relationship and accuse you of flirting with everyone - from their family to your office workers.

The manipulator - This person is very intelligent. They know how to detect your weak spots and use your vulnerability and past pain to their advantage.

Common myths about domestic violence

Alcohol and drugs make men violent.

It only happens in poor families.

Women would leave if the abuse was that bad.

Abusers grow up in violent homes.

Some women like violence.

Women ask for it.

They deserve what they get.

Abusive men have a mental illness.

He only hit her because he was under stress.

He loses his temper sometimes, that's all.

Domestic violence is a private matter, you shouldn't get involved.

How to protect the children

Don't forget the children this Christmas. Talk to them and be real. Tell them that

What is happening is not OK.

It's not your fault.

It must be scary for them.

You will listen to them.

You are sorry they had to see or hear it.

They do not deserve to have this in their family.

There is nothing you could have done to prevent it/change it.

Talk about their feelings; show understanding; show love.


Common myths about domestic violence

Alcohol and drugs make men violent.

It only happens in poor families.

Women would leave if the abuse was that bad.

Abusers grow up in violent homes.

Some women like violence.

Women ask for it.

They deserve what they get.

Abusive men have a mental illness.

He only hit her because he was under stress.

He loses his temper sometimes, that's all.

Domestic violence is a private matter, you shouldn't get involved.

Typical signs of an abuser to look out for

Charmers - Initially, they shower their partners with praise, adoration, and attention. Their courtship is sweet and intense, filled with phrases such as "I can't live without you". They quickly push for an exclusive relationship or engagement.

The jealous type - They view everyone as a threat to the relationship and accuse you of flirting with everyone - from their family to your office workers.

The manipulator - This person is very intelligent. They know how to detect your weak spots and use your vulnerability and past pain to their advantage.