Jen Pfaltz

As we begin the holiday season this week with Thanksgiving, so too begins the time of year where we, at Family Safety Network, hear, “You must be so busy this time of year.” While this statement is true, it is not true in the way you would expect.

Many people think holidays mean family stress plus excessive drinking equals increased incidents of domestic violence reporting. This is actually not the case. Data from the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) reports that calls on holidays, specifically Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are actually far lower than an average day.

We know from any number of reports that many individuals in abusive relationships stay for their children. During the holiday season there is a great deal of pressure to keep families intact and “normalize” things. The holidays can also bring people closer to their family and faith community.

Believing each holiday season that there is an uptick in domestic violence betrays our understanding of domestic violence as a society. Domestic violence is not isolated incidents of physical violence but rather an ongoing pattern of behavior. The physical violence may fluctuate but the underlying power and control are constant. Yes, stress and alcohol exacerbate the situation but they are not the root cause.

As Monica McLauglin, Deputy Director of Public Policy at the National Network to End Domestic Violence says, “It’s not a temper tantrum. This is an adult person making deliberate decisions to control another person.” Power and control do not take a holiday break. They are still a constant but generally all parties make an effort to give their children a “normal” holiday.

How is Family Safety Network busier during the holiday season? We have a rise in the generosity of our Teton Valley community members wishing to donate food and gifts to clients as well as offer their time to volunteer. Likewise, our clients are often experiencing the financial stress of the season as their energy bills rise, kids need new warm weather gear because they have grown out of last year’s, and desires to provide for their children’s wants and needs are inevitable.

How can the community best support Family Safety Network and its clients? Very often community members want to go out and buy clothes and toys for clients and their families. This is great. I know, firsthand, that it feels amazing to buy gifts for someone in need. I’ve done it. And when I did it, my gifts were so appreciated by Family Safety Network.

After becoming a staff member at FSN, however, I learned much more about the empowerment side of FSN’s advocacy. Each victim advocate at Family Safety Network works one on one with clients with the underlying goal to empower that survivor in any way they can. After years of having their control taken away, part of a victim’s process is to gradually regain their control on their journey to peaceful living. There are tangible ways to empower our clients over the holidays as well.

One way you can empower a client at Family Safety Network is by donating a gift card to the grocery story, local businesses, or Wal-Mart. A client receiving the gift card can go shopping and purchase items themselves for their children and family. During this holiday season, we can all help empower a victim of domestic violence on their road to peaceful living.

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