There’s no place like home during the holidays, or at least that’s what they say. For some, the holidays include great food, classic movies, music, and quality time with family and friends – but for others, the holidays are wrought with stress, emotional triggers, and violence.
According to Statistics Canada, over the past 5 years there has been a steady increase in police reports of domestic and intimate partner violence. Troubling as that is on its own, historically, reports of violence increase around the holidays every year. The reasons for this are similar to the reasons why rates of violence increased during the pandemic – people having time off of work to spend with their families, and inclement weather often keeping them inside offer more time and opportunities for inter relational conflict. When you add the further stress of children being home from school and a packed schedule of family gatherings, tensions are very likely to mount. Festive functions are also most often coupled with alcohol. It would be misguided to say that alcohol can turn someone into an abuser, rather someone with abusive habits or tendencies is far more likely to act as alcohol lifts their inhibitions. Pair all of that with the added financial stress of the holidays and the resulting environment is one that can escalate to a violent, dangerous situation.
It is important to note however, these holiday evaluations are solely based on police reporting. When discussing domestic and intimate partner violence as well as any form of gender based violence, we must always be aware that these crimes are wildly under reported. According to the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics; 80% of victims said the violence they experienced was not reported to police. 80% is a very large majority, and that lack of reporting makes it almost impossible to truly evaluate the magnitude of the problem.
The reality is, domestic and gender-based violence knows no bounds, no breaks, and no holidays. And although rates of police-reported family violence increase during the holidays, we know that individuals and families are experiencing violence in their homes year round.