Holidays can be a time of danger


By Vivian Blevins

Contributing Columnist

When she talked about needing to buy a Christmas tree and decorate it for their first Christmas as a married couple, he said, “No trees in this apartment. I hate Christmas.” She got one anyway and decorated it. When he came home from work, he was enraged, grabbed the tree, opened a window, and slung it out to the pavement below. That evening, she recounted the incident to the woman who raised her and said, ”I want a divorce, but I’m pregnant.”

The advice she received was, “If you divorce him, your child will be a bastard, and you don’t want that.”

We were having a party, and he went to the back door and began firing his 38 handgun. When I pleaded with him to stop, in slurred speech he responded, “How would you like to have your brains splattered all over that wall?”

Her friend knocked on her door, “Let me in. He’s threatening to kill me.” She let her friend in. Within minutes, the husband was pounding on the door. She told him to go away and that she was calling the police. He crashed through the door and went to the bathroom where his wife had locked herself in and screamed, “If you don’t come out, I’m going to kill everyone in this house!” She came out. He killed her and then killed himself.

Rose Hackman reports in the Sept. 26, 2021, issue of The Guardian that “Year after year, FBI statistics on national homicides reveal that a vast proportion of women killed in the U.S. are killed by current or former intimate partners. According to the CDC, homicide is the fourth leading cause of death for girls and women one to 19 years old and the fifth leading cause of death for women 20 to 44.

Our recent stressors as a nation have led to increases in these deaths, and JAMA Network Open reports that gun-related homicides rose 8% last year- and that there were significant increases among women as victims. Financial issues in the family, COVID, poverty, and as the holidays approach time off from work and more access to drugs and alcohol increase the chances of toxicity boiling over onto deadly rage.

David Beitzel, attorney and president of the board of Family Abuse Shelter of Miami County, reports, “My experience as an attorney tells me that the majority of domestic violence cases have alcohol involved. Folks need to be very careful, because when the alcohol starts flowing and the police get involved, generally there is one or more persons intoxicated.”

Barbara Holman, executive director of the Family Abuse Shelter of Miami County, indicates, “We want happiness during the holiday season, and we feel social pressure to present our families as ideal. These holidays, however, can be stressful with costs associated with them and issues such as whether the persons who are attending special events will manage to be civil with each other. When things get out of hand or danger threatens, it’s important for bystanders to refrain from being judgmental, to be supportive, and to make persons in danger realize the resources that are available to them, locally and nationally. If danger is eminent, law enforcement should be called to intervene.”

Area law enforcement is available to help, and Miami County Sheriff Dave Duchak says, “Unfortunately, around the holidays we see an increase on domestic violence calls due to increased stress, drinking, and more family gatherings. Anyone who has been the victim of domestic violence should immediately call 911 so law enforcement can respond and take appropriate action. Additionally, Miami County has many resources available to victims of domestic violence. The Family Abuse Shelter offers many services to those who have suffered abuse (937-339-6761 or after hours: 1-800-351-7347). The Miami County Prosecutor’s Office also offers services to those who are the victims of domestic violence through their Victim Witness Advocacy Office (937-440-5960).

Both of these groups assist victims in navigating the criminal justice system and in explaining the process of filing for civil or temporary protection orders in addition to providing counseling services.”

If you’re unaware of dangerous home situations, you might be asking questions such as the following: Why doesn’t she leave? Why doesn’t she get a restraining order? Why doesn’t she … ? There are the matters of access to money, phones, vehicles, and supportive families/friends. Not everyone has these resources, and even with them, escaping violent situations requires the expertise of professionals. There are also the issues of fear, shame, and having been conditioned to accepting abuse, even believing she deserves it.

Violence against women is a complicated issue, and for me as a columnist to coach readers on the particulars would be foolhardy. Know that the next few weeks and into 2023 can be especially dangerous, so I’m hopeful that by my calling attention to dangers, readers will research where help is available in their areas. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week: Text START to 88788 or call 1-800-799-7233.

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