RIO RANCHO, N.M. — During the season of peace, domestic violence doesn’t necessarily take a holiday.
From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, the financial stress of holiday shopping, festive booze binging and the recharging of resentments at family gatherings can unleash pent-up emotions – turning yuletide traditions into yuletide tragedies.
“The cases of domestic violence are more brutal during the holidays,” said Roberta Radosevich, executive director at Haven House domestic violence agency in Rio Rancho. “We don’t see a dramatic increase; it just seems like they’re more terribly gut-wrenching.”
Even though the National Domestic Abuse Hotline reports the number of calls actually decreases between Thanksgiving and New Year, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
More likely, it means victims don’t want to disturb family cohesiveness, can’t find private time to make a call for support, or don’t want to separate children from loved ones on what is supposed to be a joyous occasion, noted Radosevich.
“There is this kind of attempting for the holidays and putting on a show for the family,” she said.
There’s also a lot of shame and embarrassment tied to the issue – especially if it’s recurring.
“Although (domestic violence) is a public issue, it is still a very private matter,” said Tori Heaton, Rio Rancho Police Department Crime Victim Advocate Unit coordinator. “Because of obligation to the family, victims are trying to be people-pleasers and tell themselves to just get through the holidays.”
Noble thought; bad idea.
Studies show about 15 in 1,000 New Mexicans reported a domestic violence incident in 2014. But, for every call, officials estimated between 10 and 12 calls were never made – which can turn out to be a fatal mistake.
The Violence Policy Center ranked New Mexico third nationwide in terms of men murdering women. In cases where the victim’s and the killer’s relationship could be identified, the women knew their murderers and most of them were married or in a romantic relationship with them at one time.
Children, seniors and males are also victims of the alarming epidemic – whether it’s physical, emotional or sexual abuse. However, when females are the offender, men frequently don’t speak up or seek help.
“For years, it wasn’t manly for men to say they were being abused,” Radosevich said. “There are a lot of men who are victims of domestic violence.”
Regardless of gender, age or the time of year, officials strongly urge people to reach out if domestic violence is an issue in their lives or that of somebody they know.
“If in immediate danger, call 911,” Heaton said. “Breaking the cycle of violence is a process, not an act. And the best role a bystander can play is being supportive, not judgmental.”