Many people think the number of domestic calls increases around the holiday season, but research from domestic violence resources shows the number of those reaching out for help actually decreases.
According to the National Resource Center for Domestic Violence, the number of calls received decreases around the holiday season. Kim Kempf, victim service director for the St. Joseph YWCA, said that this is a misconception she has seen for many years.
“Sometimes somebody reports something, or there’s some kind of anecdotal evidence and so the theory gets out there and it just never seems to die,” Kempf said. “The other one that is super common that I get is around the Super Bowl. For some reason, people believe that there’s this increase in domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday, and I don’t know where these things necessarily come from.”
Kempf said there are some extra stresses around the holidays, like more money being spent, colder weather and more alcohol being consumed, but those don’t always lead to domestic violence.
“Lots of people have stressors, lots of people are partaking in some alcohol on occasion and they don’t choose to abuse their partners,” Kempf said. “In situations where domestic violence is already an issue, then additional stressors like alcohol use, those kind of things can escalate the situation and maybe increase the severity of the violence, but those things don’t cause domestic violence. It’s a choice that people make.”
Sgt. Jason Strong with the family crimes unit of the St. Joseph Police Department said officers do respond to calls about domestic situations around the holidays, but he can’t say if it’s more than throughout the year.
“I don’t know without trying to break down the analytics of everything, but I will tell you that oftentimes people spend more time with their family,” Strong said. “So I mean, that in and of itself makes it more likely that there could be a domestic disturbance or domestic incident amongst family members.”
Both Strong and Kempf said they try to take a proactive approach to domestic violence throughout the year through a program called the lethality assessment program.
“It’s a program to get domestic violence victims resources directly at the same time they participate in a screening,” Strong said. “It’s voluntary, with the officer who’s on the phone speaking with an advocate, and that the advocate tries to get resources with the victim and tries to do safety planning with the victim and essentially just get some things to get out of that violent or deadly situation.”
According to Kempf, 70 percent of those who take part in the lethality assessment program have not reached out to the YWCA for services. She said it gives the YWCA an opportunity to make contact with those in need and offer options to get away from abusive partners.
“I think just having a police officer ask those questions and point that research shows that people who answer yes to these questions are at a higher risk of serious injury or death ... that’s pretty impactful,” Kempf said.
Kempf said anyone who needs help throughout the holidays or at any time of the year can contact the YWCA at 816-232-1225 or 1-800-653-1477.