16 Safety Ideas and Tips for Women facing Domestic Violence over the Holiday Season

via McHenry County Turning Point http://www.mchenrycountyturningpoint.org

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence coincides with the start of the annual year-end holiday season in many parts of the world. During this period, Domestic Violence tends to spike due to a number of factors including:

  • Increased financial pressures
  • Increased alcohol and drug consumption
  • Increased family pressures and conflict
  • Increased contact with the abuser who may be on vacation for the holiday season.

In the final article in our 2012 “16 For 16” blog series, The Pixel Project presents 16 safety ideas and tips for women who continue to face Domestic Violence in their family lives. Given that Domestic Violence does not just affect the immediate victim but also their friends and extended family during this time of the year, we have divided the 16 ideas and tips into 2 categories:

  • One for victims/survivors
  • One for friends and family members who wish to take action to keep the victim/survivor safe.

If you have more tips, please share them in the comments box below this article so we can help everyone stay as safe as possible during the holiday season.


For Victims/Survivors:

Idea/Tip Number 1: Put the right numbers on speed-dial. If you have a mobile phone, make sure to put the following numbers of speed-dial/in your address book:

  • The national Domestic Violence helpline (if your country has it)
  • The local Domestic Violence shelter helpline wherever you will be spending Christmas
  • The local police helpline number
  • The number of a close friend, co-worker or family member who can be on standby to get you out of the situation or act as witness.

For those who fear that their phone may be taken away from them, memorise all important numbers so, if need be, you can call from a public pay phone.

Idea/Tip Number 2: Have a ‘Safe’ word/phrase. In violent or emergency situations, you may not be able to text or say much. Have an agreed ‘safe’ word or phrase with your close friend/co-worker or family member who agrees to have their phone on standby to receive any emergency calls/texts. Keep it short and simple.

Idea/Tip Number 3: Download a safety app. If you have a smart phone, consider downloading a safety app for women, many of which have been designed to automatically alert your support network if you are in danger. Some safety apps include P.F.O. and Circle of 6.

Idea/Tip Number 4: Keep your phone (and some money) on you at all times. Also remember to keep it fully charged at all times. You will never know when a situation will erupt, so it is crucial to have it on hand, especially if you know you might be alone with your abuser. Also have cash in hand in case you need to make a run for your life.

Idea/Tip Number 5: Arrange for an ally in advance. If you are going to spend the holiday season with extended family and you know who would believe and support you, call that person in advance to ask him or her for support and intervention should a situation turn violent. This option may not be available for all victims/survivors but it would be a feasible one for many, especially if visiting their own parents, siblings, cousins etc.

Idea/Tip Number 6: Always have an audience. Use holiday visits to extended family and friends as a chance to minimise being alone with your abuser. At best, being in company will keep the violence in check. At worst, if violence does happen, it will happen publicly and you may have others stepping in to intervene or at least a few witnesses.

Idea/Tip Number 7: Defuse it. According to one police lieutenant, walking away from a potentially explosive situation may help temporarily alleviate the abuse and avoid fatalities:“A lot of times just stepping away from a situation to let it deescalate for that night or that certain time period is the best thing someone can do.” Plan ahead with an ally (a friend or family member who will be with you for Christmas and who will support you) to run interference and get your abuser distracted by food, alcohol, a sporting game, etc.

Idea/Tip Number 8: Have an escape plan. When you are away in a household that is not your own, quietly check out all possible escape routes in the house itself. Better yet, take time to set up a plan of escape including the numbers of people willing to help you get away. If there is a good chance that your abuser will be in a drunken or drug-induced sleep or stupor over the holidays, it may be your chance to escape with your kids and pets.

For Friends and Extended Families of Victims/Survivors

Idea/Tip Number 9: Be on standby. If you suspect your friend or family member of suffering from Domestic Violence, offer to be on standby for her text or call through the holiday season. Have your phone on and fully charged at all times and keep it on you. If you have a car and need to intervene immediately, make sure that the gas/petrol tank is full so you can get in and drive to get the victim/survivor immediately if need be.

Idea/Tip Number 10: Have an intervention plan. Work out a plan to get an intervention operation in action – have the following numbers on standby for your use:

  • The national Domestic Violence helpline (if your country has it)
  • The local Domestic Violence shelter helpline wherever the victim/survivor is located.
  • The local police wherever the victim/survivor is located.

Make sure to contact all of these should you receive an urgent SOS from the victim/survivor.

Idea/Tip Number 11: Get a partner. Intervening with Domestic Violence situations can be dangerous especially if the abuser has a weapon (e.g. a gun) and is intoxicated by drink or drugs. If you are unable to get help from the local shelter or police, make sure to bring another friend or family member along with you when you respond to the victim/survivor’s call in person.

Idea/Tip Number 12: Ring the bell. If you are the neighbour of a family experiencing Domestic Violence, please take the time to ring their bell when you hear a violent situation happening. You could use the old neighbourly approach of asking to borrow a cup of sugar or some milk as an excuse. If you feel that it could get dangerous, bring another person with you so there will be more than one witness. Check out what this guy did in a PSA by our partner, Bell Bajao:

Idea/Tip Number 13: Be the back-up. If your mother, sister, daughter, daughter-in-law, niece or cousin is facing Domestic Violence at home and there is a good chance that they will face abuse over the holiday season, let them know that you will be willing to be a witness or to intervene on their behalf while you are around. Also let them know that they are welcome to take refuge in your home should they need somewhere to go.

Idea/Tip Number 14: Be part of the plan. If a victim/survivor approaches you with a plan to escape her abuser during the holiday season, agree to do so and be on standby to help her and bolster her resolve when the time comes to put the plan into action.

Idea/Tip Number 15: Provide some relief. If your know a Domestic Violence victim/survivor who is being kept at home without relief during the holiday season, do a random act of kindness for her: Offer to babysit the children for a few hours while the abuser is out so she can have a breather; Send over some small festive goodies such as cookies, candy or something else traditional with a kind note; Offer to pick up groceries for her on your grocery run.

Idea/Tip Number 16: Check in regularly. If you fear for your friend or family member’s life over the holiday season, call or text her once a day at a random time to see if she is all right. If it’s your neighbour, keep an eye out on the house and your ears pricked for any signs or sounds of violence.

10 thoughts on “16 Safety Ideas and Tips for Women facing Domestic Violence over the Holiday Season

  1. Thanks for this post. In fact, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence reports that, to date, there is no comprehensive national study linking the holidays with an increase in domestic violence. Most of the available information continues to be anecdotal or opinion pieces reflecting the experiences of advocates at a particular shelter program or law enforcement agencies in a given community. Also, an analysis of statistics from small studies and available data on calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline indicates some contradictory patterns. For more on this topic and additional ideas for supporting survivors through the holidays, see the NRCDV Technical Assistance Guidance “Domestic Violence and the Holidays” at: http://www.vawnet.org/Assoc_Files_VAWnet/TAGuidance-DVHolidays2011.pdf

  2. I never thought about just going over to “borrow” a cup of sugar to check on someone or to just get the abusers focus off the victim. Thanks for that great tip. Also, if you are in a violent situation, tell your neighbor if they see the porch light on, call the police that means you need help. I am a survivor of domestic violence and know how important it is to have help when you need it to be safe.

  3. I would also suggest being armed at all times. Pepper spray, for example, seems to work extremely well in defusing these types of situations. You don’t have to worry about the legal repercussions of harming or killing your abuser, plus there’s the bonus of being able to call the police while he/she is dropped for 45mins-1hr. The only problem is that there may some blowback in a future event.

    • Being armed is actually a very dangerous thing to do in these situations. The aggressor sees it as a challenge to their power, and frequently the weapon is used against the victim.

  4. I used to work with abused women and I have one more tip. I encourage one woman I worked with to put together a small suitcase and hide it. She chose to hide it in the storage cupboard in their apartment. In the suitcase were necessities for the kids especially the baby (ie diapers, clothes, formula, blankets, a special toy etc) This emergency suitcase proved to be invaluable on xmas eve when her boyfriend got drunk and abusive. She waited for him to pass out and then left. She had also stashed cab money in the suitcase so she’d have a way to get to the nearest women’s shelter (I had shown her where the shelter was and we had visited several times). Our planning saved her life and the life of her 5 yr old son and infant daughter. She never went back.

  5. THE MOST DANGEROUS TIME FOR AN ABUSED PERSON & THOSE TRYING TO PROTECT THEM IS WHEN THEY LEAVE THE ABUSER !! .NEVER PRESSURE AN ABUSED PERSON TO RETURN TO THE ABUSER FOR ANY REASON.!! My sister Kay, her children & pets were in a safe house. He got “saved”. She was pressured by church & others that didn’t understand the danger to return, which she did. He soon reverted to the drugs & alcohol. She was afraid the children would be hurt because they tried to protect her during his attacks. She separated again. Divorce Papers were served Dec 31st.. He came to her home, took her from the children at knife point, shot her to death, returned her to the children.

  6. Get involved…do not let victims of domestic violence stand alone. My ex did not come after me, he kidnapped my adult daughter as a way to hurt and intimidate me. My support group has been invaluable to my daughter and I to work through the trauma he caused.

  7. i think it takes great courage to escape domestic violence especially if it is an abusive father or step father and the mother is fixed on that type of personality and never leaves and supports him over her children and blames the children for the behaviour
    i know it takes a strong woman to leave an abusive man if she has no family support and no education or knowledge of how to look after herself from a previous abusive situation
    i know you can disappear from this if you want to
    with the help of this organisation and others like it
    this is the best councelling service in australia for domestic violence
    the salvation army are good at hiding women and children from stalking behaviour
    and often these men who are abusive have “friends” in high places accessing phone lines and monitoring movement , they use Surveillance to track women through friends in police force , armed services or other govt linked agencies
    sadly with internet and cctv social media it is even easier and they will track you usually three ways
    your accommodation – backpacker hostels
    your bank account – credit cards
    and your FAMILY and friends/work
    (then phone and utility bills ) – track you
    stay away from these things and no one will find you *
    these days its easier to change due to modern day cosmetic surgery * and alias identification is easy to get
    i didnt do the later two
    i am a survivor of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE from “MEN” i use the term loosely
    i was in hiding for nearly 12 mths no one found me
    i then made contact distantly for 6mths
    i rarely see the abusers now – i was stalked on the phone for over a decade and the police charged the culprit
    i still dont know who was behind it due to privacy laws that were there two decades ago
    NOW THE LAWS HAVE CHANGED – you have more rights
    it is possible to be safe *
    your family will never really support you if you are abused by one of their own *
    people dont want it to effect their SOCIAL STATUS
    or their personal home life
    you will be on your own however
    unfortunately it is now a different world with CCTV
    the beach used to be a safe haven
    COASTAL WATCH IS HUGE ON OUR BEACHES and unfortunately victims are watched by stalkers *
    YOU CAN START A NEW LIFE – if it was your mothers mistake – let that mistake never live on in your own life
    it is possible to love and be FREE …..
    FREEDOM IS UNDERVALUED ………LOVE AND LIVE LIFE TO THE FULL dont waste time with other peoples DRAMA*

  8. ALSO DONT DRINK ALCOHOL when you are with abusive people – they deliberately try to get you to drink social
    look at the domestic violence CYCLE
    ” the gift period ” when everything seems ok
    its just a hop skip and a jump til they go back to the not ok part

    your freedom and safety is worth MORE THAN MATERIAL OBJECTS – JUST LEAVE