The festive season can be a time of joy and togetherness. However if you are a victim/survivor of abuse it can also be a time of great danger. Here’s what you can do to stay safe during the holidays — whether you recently left your abuser or you’re still in active danger.
If you are still in active danger
If you are still living or in direct contact with your abuser then Christmas can be a time of heightened stress and increased abuse. Whether you are ready to break free from your abuser or not, prolonged time together during the festive season can aggravate abusive behaviour. Take these steps to stay as safe as possible:
- Find regular reasons to get a break. Whether needing to run errands, going for a long drive or taking baby for a walk ; find a reason to give yourself a break every day.
- If possible schedule regular interactions with others so that you are not alone too much. Even just checking in on an elderly neighbour can offer respite and connection.
- Be careful if your abuser is intoxicated. Find reasons to be around others during this time, ideally also at night. Physical violence gets worse when abusers are drunk or on drugs.
- Stay in touch with your survivor mentor and let them know what is going on. They will support you regardless of your circumstance. If you don’t have a survivor mentor this might be a good time to consider peer mentoring. You can find access to mentors via organisations like Blossom Movement.
- Have a safety plan in place should the abuse get too much to bare. 000 and 1800respect are always available to you, even during the festive season. If you’re not able to speak you can use the webchat on their website at any time of the day.
- Hide a cheap mobile phone somewhere with some credit on so you can text should the abuse become too much to bare. You can agree with your mentor or safety network on an emoji you may send should you need urgent help. Always keep the petrol tank in your car have full and have an escape bag hidden away just in case.
If you recently left your abuser
- Be trauma bond aware — for many of us, Christmas can heighten emotions and feelings of nostalgia. You may find yourself missing your abuser and romanticising your time together. Keep your mind in check by writing down reasons why you left them. Remind yourself of their abusive behaviour and why you chose to leave.
- Plan your future and focus your thoughts on the things you’d like to achieve. Life has so much to offer, especially when we live free from abuse.
- Have a safety plan in place. The Christmas period can unhinge abusers further. If you are new to an area or neighbourhood introduce yourself to your neighbours. Ask them or trustworthy friends/family to check in regularly. Have a safe word in place which can signal to them that you are in active danger.
- Maintain no contact. Currently one Australian woman is being killed every week at the hands of intimate partner violence. You face the greatest danger once you have left so don’t become a statistic — stay safe and do not engage with your abuser. Read this article on trauma bonding should you be tempted to resume contact.
- Communicate with your friends, family and your support network. Leaving an abuser isn’t easy and it can take considerable time to heal. However you don’t have to do it alone. Be sure to let those around you know what is going on. The Domestic Violence Support Australia page on Facebook is safe space where you can reach out and get support from 1000s of survivors at any time. You can also request a mentor via organisations like Blossom Movement.