Domestic Violence doesn’t take a break for the holidays

Image of candleIn fact, there’s a great deal of evidence to suggest that domestic abuse increases over the season.  Triggers can include financial worries, increased alcohol consumption, family pressures and expectations as well as the simple fact that people are off work and spend more time with those close to them.

Domestic violence not only affects victims.  It impacts their family, friends and neighbours too.  If you know someone you think may be in an abusive relationship, you can take steps to help them get through the holidays safely.

For anyone in an abusive relationship, safety planning is very important.  Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Put the right numbers into your phone including the police, the Domestic Violence Hotline, local shelter and a close friend, co-worker or family member who can be on standby.
  • Have a safe word:  You may not be able to say or text much in an emergency situation so share a code word with your close friend, family member or co-worker.  Keep your safe word short and simple and share it with people who are on standby to help you in an emergency.   A distress signal can also be useful, such as blinking the porch light a certain number of times to alert neighbours.
  • Download one of the free safety apps  (like GWEN alert; Aspire News or bSafe) if you have a smart phone.  They can automatically alert your safety network in the event of an emergency.
  • Keep your phone fully charged and with you and have some cash on hand at all times in case you need to flee.
  • Have an escape plan and have a bag already packed.  The bag should include important items such as: driver’s licenses, social insurance number, money, medicine/copies of prescriptions, a change of clothes, toiletries etc.  If it’s not safe to keep this at home, you could ask a neighbour to keep it for you.
  • If you’re visiting somewhere, take a quick check of the exits so you will know how to get away if you need to.
  • Check the Neighbours, Friends and Families Safety Planning brochure for more tips

If you are a close friend, neighbour or family member of a victim/survivor:

  • Offer support to someone you think may be in an abusive relationship.
  • Become familiar with the community services and tell the person you are worried about what they can offer.
  • Check in regularly.
  • Be on standby and make sure your phone is charged and with you and that you have emergency numbers including police and local shelters programmed into your phone.
  • Be part of the escape plan.  If a victim calls with the safe word or gives off the distress signal, take action.  Call law enforcement or ring the doorbell if it’s safe to do so.
  • Do a random act of kindness to relieve some of the stress.  Offer to babysit, get groceries or bake some cookies.

Important Number:

Assaulted Women’s Helpline: (IN ONTARIO) Toll Free: 1-866-863-0511. Toll Free TTY: 1-866-863-7868 or #SAFE (#7233) on your Bell, Rogers, Fido or Telus mobile phone.

This helpline is anonymous, toll-free and won’t show up on your phone bill.