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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