Print
PDF

Violence in the Home Escalates at Christmas

The winter is upon us and so is one of the biggest holiday times of the year. Over the next few weeks, the stress of Christmas shopping and holiday planning will increase, culminating in a frantic race to finish by closing time on the 24th.

Many of us will be a bit frazzled by the time the big day rolls around. Some of us will look forward to having all the relatives under one roof and others will at least tolerate the visits of extended family more or less successfully.

All of this is the norm and in the end we celebrate with good cheer and more rich food than is advisable.


The stress of this time of year can have much deeper implications for a percentage of our community. The reality of Christmas is too difficult for some to handle.

There are many factors that play a role in the darker side of holiday preparations and celebrations. Unfortunately this is a time when violence in the home escalates and it is most often women and children who are targets of the abuse.

Since the 1980s we have become increasingly aware of the long-term effect that witnessing violence can have on a child. It is important to recognize that witnessing violence against someone in the child's social network results in the child being psychologically traumatized.

The diagnosis for the majority of children who witness violence, particularly in their home, is post traumatic stress disorder. You may have heard this term in relation to soldiers returning home from combat.

Essentially, PTSD occurs when an individual is overwhelmed and unable to cope with what they have experienced. They develop a way of coping that removes them from the traumatic event.

Children suffering from PTSD may seem to be in denial and act as if nothing has happened or they will shrug it off as if it is not important.

They may bury their feelings, start having nightmares or they may become aggressive or depressed. They may cry a lot, seem to be vague or forgetful and possibly develop headaches or other body pains. They might become fearful and have feelings of helplessness.

Children may cling to a parent and be afraid to let that person out of their sight or may lock themselves away in a room and stay clear of other family members.

Witnessing violence will colour how a child sees the world. A big issue for the child as he or she moves through the ages and stages of life will be safety.

The child who witnesses violence will consciously or unconsciously be seeking a safe place. It will affect life choices such as relationships, employment, social network, health and lifestyle.

If you know of a child who is witnessing violence in the home or in his social network, take the steps to get help. This is a life-or- death situation for this child or youth. FRA offers counselling for women who are abused and for child witnesses of violence.