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The Myth of the Holiday Spike in Domestic Violence

Woman stressed out about holiday shopping

Around the holidays a familiar narrative always crops up:  People are more stressed, are consuming more drugs and alcohol, and as a result, are committing more acts of domestic violence.  Local news outlets tend to perpetuate this view.  While domestic violence is an incredibly real and pervasive problem across the country, recent studies have cast doubt over whether the “holiday spike” is indeed a real phenomenon and whether it causes a rise in domestic violence.  Domestic violence prevention advocates, moreover, worry that this myth is actually harmful to the overall battle against domestic violence by focusing people’s concerns on one time of year, or by giving offenders excuses. 

Domestic Violence Prevention Organizations Claim the Holiday Spike is Not Real

The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV) offers a “holiday toolbox” for survivors of domestic violence and the advocates who help them.  The toolbox includes updated data on domestic violence complaints received around the country.  According to data collected from the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH), the number of calls received during the holidays (up to and including both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day) actually sharply declines during the holidays. 

Data from 2017 shows that the hotline received an average of 5,123 calls per week across the year, but fewer than 3,300 calls over Thanksgiving week and 4,259 calls the week after.  NDVH fielded an average of 730 calls per day in 2017, but only 354 on Thanksgiving Day, around 370-380 on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, 368 on New Year’s Eve and 513 on New Year’s Day.  The statistics show that the NDVH handled around 12,400 calls across the average 17 day period in 2017, but from December 15 to January 1, they received fewer than 10,000.

Domestic Violence is Still a Huge Problem in the Country

The 10,000 calls over the holidays reporting domestic violence is itself an alarming reminder of the continuing problem of domestic violence across the country.  While the numbers dropped from 2016 to 2017, the NDVH changed its reporting policy to no longer include calls that were dropped within 15 seconds of contacting the hotline, so there is reason to believe that the amount of domestic violence being committed across the U.S. remains about the same as it has over the past 10 years.

Experts caution that the myth of the holiday spike can actually be a problem for domestic violence prevention.  Holiday stress may exacerbate an abuser’s problems, but it is not the root cause.  Victims may be less likely to reach out to the hotline or to police over the holidays if they believe holiday stress justifies the violence.

If you need experienced legal help and representation in a domestic violence proceeding, contact the compassionate and experienced New Jersey family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation on your case, in Union at 908-964-0102.

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