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December 29th, 2009
05:19 PM ET

Extra stress of holidays can trigger domestic violence

Charlie Sheen's wife told police the actor pinned her on a bed, put a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her in a Christmas Day fight.

Charlie Sheen's wife told police the actor pinned her on a bed, put a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her in a Christmas Day fight.

Regine Labossiere
Hartford Courant

The holidays can mean festivities and family gatherings. But for families already dealing with domestic violence, the holidays and periods of economic stress may trigger abuse, said Kristi Salters-Pedneault.

The clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic said that although each incident of domestic violence is unique, there are themes she has seen during her years of counseling and research at the Veterans Affairs' National Center for PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] in Boston.

Salters-Pedneault discussed these issues in an interview with The Courant and in an e-mail exchange. Her answers have been edited for space.

Q. Is there an increase in domestic violence during the holidays?

A. Anecdotally we definitely see more people reporting more stress in their family, more incidents of violence happening. However, the research doesn't necessarily bear out an increase during the holidays. There's probably a few reasons for that.

One is that during the holiday season, people are really motivated to keep the status quo. People don't want to leave their families or break up their families right in the middle of the holidays. ... It's actually after the holidays end – in January and February – that you're more likely to see an increase in the reports of violence happening.

Q. So what is it about the holidays that might lead to an increase in domestic violence?

A. General family stress increases that type of violence. In addition, there's more financial stress during the holidays, so people are feeling that strain. Particularly in this economy, that makes it a recipe for more violence.

Often in relationships where there's violence, there's issues around jealousy and attachment. So, during the holidays, a partner might want to spend more time with their family or be around other people, and that can be very threatening for the partner who is the abuser who feels threatened or powerless in a relationship.

And people are drinking more during the holidays, too, and so that can disinhibit the abusive partner.

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Filed under: Crime • Women's Issues
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Teresa, OR

    I find it disturbing that the media is always asking, "Why doesn't the woman leave?", which is blaming the victim. The question is, "Why doesn't the man stop?"putting the responsibility where it lies, with the perpetrator.

    December 30, 2009 at 6:04 am |
  2. Jeff

    I must agree with RG, she is drunk and and Charlie isn't , and it is automatically assumed that everything she is saying is true! She could have been the one with the knife, I've been through this situation a couple times, and believe me it can happen that way, and once the verbal attacks come, they are sure to come from both sides.

    December 30, 2009 at 2:20 am |
  3. jeff chapman

    Please don't keep playing the 911 tapes of Charlie Sheen wife...you can tell, plus tests indicated that she was plastered! So why play that tape?

    December 30, 2009 at 2:05 am |
  4. Eva

    I think it is so disturbing that no one is discussing the real issue. It is violence against women. We always hide behind some great reason why it happens, like extra stress during the holidays. What about the obvious sexist misogynistic culture which we except in this country. Charlie Sheen's attempted murder is labeled as "behaving badly"? Disgusting! Wake up!

    December 29, 2009 at 11:00 pm |
  5. RG

    There is no way we can comment on details that took place between a husband and wife. There are always 2 sides to a conflict. While I will never condone physical violence, all the attention on empowering women to stand up to abusive husbands leaves me wondering when will the other side of the problem be addressed: women who are verbally and emotionally abusive to their partners? That kind of behavior is very damaging, but is completely ignored by the media, most counselors, and certainly by the court system.

    December 29, 2009 at 10:57 pm |
  6. Tiffany, IL

    Grateful your bringing this news to the forefront, so many women and children suffer in silence. We have turned our heads and said that it's an individual "problem," i.e. just leave. But when we actually look at the social structure there are really few options. Shelters are scarce and overflowing, often only allow one night stay, how do people work, keep children in school, etc? Thus, it becomes choosing between staying in abusive situations or living literally on the streets. It's time that we give the overcomers a voice so that they can empower others to believe that a peaceful, liberated life is possible. Keep sharing!!

    December 29, 2009 at 10:23 pm |
  7. Teresa, OH

    I think alot of holiday violence is people have preconcieved notions that they are going to be happy happy happy and all that family time together will make everyone grateful and compassionate. Nope, it's the same old people you fought with all year long. And all that new time with them is a powder keg getting ready to blow.

    Nothing is gonna change for one day. I noticed at many family gatherings that the MEN view it as a holiday to get WASTED... not just tipsy, drunk, or having a good old time. They get wasted.

    While I feel sorry for Charlie Sheens wife, I am glad she had the COURAGE to call the cops and say no to his BS. ^5 to Brooke !!! This guy abused other gals and no one listened to Denise Richardson, his ex-wife. Almost ruined her acting career ( what she had of it anyway.)

    December 29, 2009 at 6:59 pm |