Articles

Preparing for the Holidays as a Survivor of Gender-Based Violence 

By A BWJP Advocate 

Holidays can be a time of excitement and anticipation while also creating feelings of anxiety for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV).  

Meant for reflection and focusing on family, friends, and relationships, this time of year can also bring up feelings of self-doubt and trauma for victim/survivors. Whether you have made the decision to stay in your relationship, have already left the relationship, or are planning to leave, holidays can be especially difficult for survivors of intimate partner violence. A change in financial resources may have resulted in not having the ability to participate in the same amount of gift-giving as in previous years, causing embarrassment and guilt. Creating an impression of a cohesive family unit can be exhausting. If you are divorced or separated, parenting time orders can mean spending less or no time with your children. Understandably, all these factors can increase feelings of sadness, fear, loneliness, and anger, creating a rollercoaster of emotions and making it challenging to cope day-to-day.    

Planning for the Holiday Season 

As a survivor, you probably have developed the ability to foresee and predict situations. This ability has given many survivors an advantage when navigating various situations with an abusive partner. Taking time and creating a holiday safety plan for yourself and your children can be one of the ways to reduce anxiety and stress. It will provide you with a process of thinking through ways to minimize harm and develop a plan of action to increase safety. Below are some suggestions on how to make the holidays feel a little safer.  

Developing a Safety Plan for Yourself 

During the holiday season, family gatherings, social functions, and get-togethers with friends tend to take precedence over focusing on oneself. There is an emphasis on "being in the holiday spirit." While everyone enjoys being in the spirit, it can take a lot of work and energy for survivors and can mean focusing much of our energy on others and meeting their expectations.  

Survivors may experience additional stress during the holiday season. Family gatherings and social events can mean spending more time and proximity to those causing them harm. Expectations of them can increase, resulting in their feeling they are overly responsible for their partners' emotional well-being and environment.  

If you are a survivor of GBV feeling additional stress or pressure as we approach the holidays, it is vital to remind yourself that you are just as important and deserving as those around you. How we care for ourselves and what we do today for our emotional, mental, and social well-being is essential to our health, quality of life, and whatever journey of rediscovery we are on. Self-care may be a new concept or something we practice sporadically.  

Whatever the case may be, below are some suggestions: 

  • Allow yourself to acknowledge any feelings you are having.  
  • Beware of harmful self-talk and try to challenge and redirect with positive thoughts. 
  • When planning out the holiday's activities, build in time for enough rest. 
  • Develop and utilize your support network. Identify a couple of people you can talk with when stressed or things are difficult.  
  • If it is physically and emotionally safe for you to do so, permit yourself to not make any significant decisions regarding your relationship. If you feel you need to make a plan, first talk with a domestic violence advocate about your legal, financial, and safety options. 

Most importantly, develop a safety plan in case of emergency. Safety plans can be complex. A survivor’s safety plan must be individualized and consider their personal risks.  But, if you think you would need to flee, some things to consider would be where you would go, packing an overnight bag and putting it somewhere accessible, and having copies (or a flash drive) of important documents. 

When Safety Planning with Children 

Children can also have an increase in anxiety during holidays. They can feel sad about being unable to spend time with both parents, worried about spending more time with one parent over the other, troubled by a parent spending time alone during the holidays, and/or anxiety about spending time with the parent that has caused harm.  Children and adolescents can be unwilling and uncomfortable to discuss their feelings, so planning for ongoing conversations over the holidays may be a good way to support children during this time.  

Another way to alleviate some of the safety concerns faced by survivors and their children during the holidays is to develop strategies to keep your child safe by creating a safety plan.  A safety plan gives you the opportunity to prepare ahead of time so your child can feel more prepared in case of an emergency. Safety planning must be age-appropriate and include strategies that your child can implement if the need arises.  As you know your child best, assist them in determining situations they do not feel safe in and help them decide what action they would take in those particular situations. Practice their safety plan often, so it becomes second nature, especially with younger children, who may forget the information when they are under stress.    

Some ideas are:   

  • Help your child identify people they trust and can contact in case of an emergency.  Make sure to provide your child with their contact information, and practice how to contact them in case of an emergency. Also, connect with that person ahead of time so they are aware that your child may contact them in case of an emergency. 
  • Help your child establish when and who to contact during an emergency. These contacts can include neighbors, other family members, trusted friends, law enforcement, etc. Help your child pick a safe room in your home or the home they will be staying at where they can go if they are scared or feeling unsafe.  If an older child needs to leave the home because they feel unsafe, agree on a pre-determined meeting place.   

For more safety planning tips with children visit … 

https://www.womenslaw.org/safety-planning-children

https://www.thehotline.org/resources/safety-planning-with-children/

Talking with a domestic violence advocate in your area can be helpful. Talking through this option and understanding the local organizations can help if the situation arises.   

For additional information on safety planning, The National Domestic Violence Hotline has additional safety planning strategies on its website at https://www.thehotline.org/resources/safety-planning-for-the-holidays/ 

 From the staff at BWJP, we wish you and your families a safe and wonderful Holiday Season! 

TAGS: #BWJP Announcements #Children and Teens #Gender Based Violence #News #Women

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