Domestic violence & the holidays: How to stay safe, get help
The holidays can be a stressful time, especially when it comes to domestic violence. Rhonda Raney, executive director of InterAct, said there tends to be a slight reprieve from domestic violence incidents during the holiday season. However, that reprieve is short-lived.
"We do have enough evidence in our records to show there is an attempt to moderate during the holiday season," Raney said. "But it kicks up again in January. We see the pent up stressors and pent up tension from the holiday season manifesting itself after the fact." This can be attributed to several factors, including proximity and isolation.
During the holidays, everyone is in close proximity. School is out and businesses are closed, which means people aren't working during the day. Some people may be traveling by car, which means you're stuck in very close proximity for long periods of time. "That proximity creates more opportunities for stressors," Raney said.
During the holidays, victims may be isolated from their support system, whether that's coworkers, friends, etc. This can obviously create additional stressors that can lead to a potentially dangerous situation. "It’s sort of like waiting for [the other] shoe to drop." And if that shoe drops, it's important that victims get out safely – and alive.
What to do if you need help
If you are a victim of domestic violence, InterAct is here to help. Raney said it’s not always enough to just leave. InterAct has resources in place to help you leave in a way that ensures the safety of you and your family – an escape plan, financial education, job training, goal setting, etc. InterAct is open 24/7, 365 days a year. That means you can call on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, at any time.
During January, InterAct increases its staff to meet the high demand. "We do have a phenomenal team of individuals who are prepared and ready to respond to these challenges," Raney said. "We’re ready for it. We schedule for the increases." Raney said InterAct is here to provide any and all resources that someone may need to get away from domestic violence.
“We always encourage people who are considering any decision with how to respond to domestic violence to reach out to our crisis line," Raney said. You can call the InterAct crisis hotline at 919-828-7740 or 866-291-0855 (toll-free). "We have trained professionals who are prepared to provide education and advice," Raney said. "If you’re thinking about it, reach out to InterAct."
How to safely contact InterAct
Leaving is the most dangerous part when it comes to escaping domestic violence. For many victims, it can be a dangerous to even reach out for help. Make sure you are alone and out of earshot before calling InterAct.
"When there is a private time, one good place would be the restroom of a restaurant or the gas station, any place where they are alone," Raney said. If you’re traveling by car, Raney said a good time to call is when you stop for gas. You can sneak off to the restroom without raising suspicion. A crisis center representative will answer your call immediately. If InterAct has to call you back for any reason, they will call back from a blocked line. If your abuser or someone else answers the phone, InterAct always gives a nondescript greeting to ensure they're not putting the victim in more danger.
"Our goal is to make sure that people are safe," Raney said. "When an individual is in need of that kind of support, we are here to provide it." Whether you need emergency shelter, an escape plan or just someone to comfort you in a time of need, InterAct is here to help.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE). For county-by-county help, the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence has a list of resources at nccadv.org.