On the night before Thanksgiving, 911 dispatchers in Albuquerque got a call regarding an unresponsive woman. When the ambulance arrived, Nicole was pronounced dead at the scene, with suspicious marks on her neck and face that denoted beating and strangulation. Her boyfriend, Francisco, who had made the call to 911, was arrested for murder and tampering with evidence.
Unfortunately, this true story is all too common, especially in Albuquerque. Women often experience domestic abuse or violence on or around major holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and even Super Bowl Sunday. Many victims are unable to escape, in spite of the holidays being a time of family reunions, warm conversations, and and generosity..
According to statistics, domestic abuse increases over the holidays, for a number of possible reasons:
- Stress from holiday shopping, finances, and planning can aggravate volatile personalities.
- Abusers are more likely to partake of alcohol or drugs when they don’t have to work.
- Simple opportunity: abuser are more likely to be home alone with their victims than at other times of the year.
Recognizing the Warning Signs
It’s easier to get caught up in an abusive relationship than many people think. Abusers can be charming and particularly loving, especially at first. Sometimes it’s easier for friends or family members from the outside to recognize the warning signs of domestic abuse, such as:
- Bruises or cuts that are worse than their explanations merit (“I accidentally fell”, “I hit my head on a cabinet”).
- Wearing inappropriate or unusual clothing to cover up (turtlenecks, sunglasses indoors, long skirts or pants when they usually wear shorter clothing).
- Being unusually quiet, withdrawn, or even fearful.
- Anxiety or apprehension, especially when away from the abuser.
- Depression or discussion of suicidal thoughts.
- Development of a drug or alcohol problem.
Changes in activity:
- Being late or canceling at the last minute more often than is usual.
- Avoiding parties or other activities they used to enjoy, especially with friends and family.
- Lack of money or access to resources because partner has control of it.
Some of these personality changes can be due to other circumstances, but when a survivor is experiencing abuse, including sexual abuse, you may notice these occurring in conjunction or more frequently.
The abuser’s behavior may be the biggest red flag for you that your friend or family member is in danger. Keep an eye out for these red flags from the survivor, such as:
- Excusing abusive behavior as “moody” or “needy” or as being due to drugs or alcohol.
- Needing to “ask permission” to go out or see or communicate with friends.
- Jealousy or accusations of infidelity from the partner.
- Criticism from the partner.
- Constant “checking in” via texts or phone calls from the partner.
- Partner accompanying survivor to events unnecessarily.
What to Do if You or a Loved One is in an Abusive Relationship
It’s important to remember that violence is never the victim’s fault. If you are speaking to a friend or loved one you assume is a survivor of violence, never be accusatory or critical. Instead, emphasize your unconditional support and love, and offer resources if possible. A few good ones to keep in mind include:
- Local police phone numbers.
- Local women’s shelters.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Getting out of an abusive relationship can be difficult. There are many resources to help you stay safe and regain control of your life.
Women Against Crime has developed a podcast to help recognize the signs and the cycle of abuse, with tips on how to avoid violence or stop the cycle.
Remember: Anyone can become a victim of domestic abuse or violence. It is not a sign of weakness or stupidity. Women Against Crime is committed to helping women become survivors who can help stop the cycle of abuse for themselves and the women they love, through the holidays and at all times.