As we find ourselves in the midst of the holiday season, we are often asked the question, ‘Does domestic violence increase during the holidays (the time period beginning the week of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day)?’
Although there continues to be a common perception that domestic violence increases during the holidays, available research on such a link is still limited and inconclusive. Information on the number of calls received by the National Domestic Violence hotline, which fields thousands of calls from victims in Colorado in lieu of a statewide hotline based in Colorado, for the past ten years indicates that the number of calls drops dramatically during the holidays, including on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.* Most of the rest of the available information continues to be anecdotal or opinion pieces reflecting the experiences of advocates at a particular shelter or law enforcement agencies in a given community.
Additionally, many communities experience increased media and public attention to domestic violence during the holidays. The holidays are certainly an opportunity to increase public awareness that domestic violence does not stop during the holidays and that the abuse and violence experienced by victims may be exacerbated (although not caused) by the financial stress and alcohol consumption that often accompany the holidays. Victims and survivors of domestic violence may experience additional stress and unique challenges over the holiday season and may turn to advocates at domestic violence organizations or to other resources in the community for needed support, such as with safety planning specific to the holidays, food, gifts for their children, etc.
Members of the community who want to help victims of domestic violence and their children, who are not fortunate enough to experience the joy of the holidays within safe, loving families, should contact the local domestic violence non-profit organization serving their community to find out ways they can offer their support. A listing of all such organizations in the state is available here on Violence Free Colorado’s website.
• A 2010 study examining calls for law enforcement assistance in a large U.S. city also found that the number of incidents reported was higher on New Year’s Day compared to the daily average.2
• On the other hand, data from the National Domestic Violence hotline for the years 2004 through 2010, indicates that the number of hotline calls drops dramatically during the holidays. For instance, call volume drops by approximately half on Thanksgiving Day. Call volume decreases by an average of 53% on Christmas Day and 30% on New Year’s Day.3
2 Joshi, M., & Sorenson, S. B. (2010). Intimate partner violence at the scene: Incident characteristics and implications for public health surveillance. Evaluation Review, 34(2), 116–‐136.
3 NDVH provides a very different data source than is used in the other two studies. While the two studies examine law enforcement statistics, NDVH call data reflect individuals reaching out on a toll–‐free helpline for assistance, including victims, friends and family, and less frequently, offenders. Also, data analyzed by the three sources referenced here are from different time periods.