Coordinated Community Response: Holiday Stressors and the Cycle of Violence

by ANNI LAMPERT, Advocate at HELP of Door County and CCR Co-coordinator

The holidays come with stress. About this there is little disagreement. The time of year that we all hope will be filled with joy and laughter with family and friends may instead create tensions that contribute to a person losing it and becoming violent.

A poll conducted by the American Psychological Association found that nearly a quarter of Americans reported feeling extreme stress come holiday time because of family drama, broken relationships, loss of someone close, the pressure to travel, the stress that comes with taking time off work, the cost of buying gifts, and on and on.

Add these pressures to the everyday pressures of making a living, raising kids and taking care of a household – not to mention the specter of COVID-19 that persists – and it’s not difficult to see why things can easily become overwhelming.

One of the tools that advocates use to help clients understand the domestic violence they are experiencing is a chart showing the cycle of violence. Imagine a circle. At the top, there’s an incidence of violence. Maybe it rose to the level of receiving attention from neighbors or law enforcement. Maybe not.

In that incident’s aftermath, there’s a honeymoon period: “I’m so sorry.” “I’ll never do it again.” “I was just drunk and mad.” “You just got me so worked up.” There may be flowers or gifts.

Time rolls on, and the memory of that frightening incident fades. More time rolls on. But eventually life intervenes again. Tension builds and builds, until boom: another incident. This cycle repeats and repeats. Over time, the honeymoon period shortens, then disappears, and the level of violence in each incident escalates.

Is there a correlation between the added stressors of the holidays and the occurrence of domestic violence?

“There is a noticeable increase in calls to dispatch during the holidays reporting domestic abuse or family fights,” said Chief Deputy Pat McCarty of the Door County Sheriff Department.

Milly Gonzales, executive director of HELP of Door County, agrees. “We see many more new clients during the holiday periods,” she said. “Everyone deserves to feel safe and supported all year long, and because there are so many helping agencies and organizations in Door County, we’re also able to help connect our previous clients, along with new clients, to resources over and above what we can provide.”

All Coordinated Community Response (CCR) partners work tirelessly throughout the year to help Door County residents and visitors feel and be safe and live in healthy relationships. If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out to any of us.

This column is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Teams and the Door County Elder and Adult-at-Risk Interdisciplinary Team.

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