Domestic violence spikes after the holiday season despite financial, emotional stress

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ABERDEEN, S.D. The holiday season should be a joyous time when people come together to create memories with family and friends. However, in some cases, the memories will not be pleasant ones. KSFY's Kayleigh Schmidt took a look at what law enforcement and domestic violence shelters see during the holidays.

Over the last three years, the Aberdeen Police Department has investigated more than 1,100 assaults. Ninety-three of those assaults were reported in December, which puts them slightly below the monthly average.

This trend is normal though. Safe Harbor sees fewer check-ins in the last month of the year but a huge spike in January.

"The people that are in probably abusive relationships are feeling like they need to keep things together for the time being for the family, for the holidays. Then come the next year, something will happen and then they'll get out and then they'll seek our assistance," Safe Harbor Executive Director Gina Karst said.

Finances and alcohol are stressors that can exasperate an already abusive relationship.

"But domestic violence is truly about power and control. What power they can hold over their victim, the control they can have over their victim. That's what it's all about, you know, the holiday season may be a little more stressful and so things might get exasperated, but it's really probably going on throughout the year," Karst said.

Friends and family members should reach out to someone they think might be in an abusive relationship.

"I wouldn't outright say 'hey I think you're in an abusive relationship.' I would maybe just let them know I'm here for you if you ever need to talk," Karst said.

Victims of domestic violence may not talk to you right away, but letting them know you're open to talking is a step in the right direction.

Redirecting your feelings of stress or anxiety in situations can help you get through the holidays.

"Our attitudes rub off on other peoples, so if we can go in with a positive attitude and really good expectations, often times that positivity is really gonna rub off on those around us," Presentation College Director of Counseling and Student Health Services Rebecca Christiansen said.

Counselors also suggest paying attention to your surroundings and the emotions it brings. If things become too overwhelming for you, taking some alone-time in another or outside can calm you down. There are also those certain topics that just shouldn't be discussed at the Christmas table.

"A lot of times those are going to center around politics, money matters usually, and then often times too maybe old family disagreements," Christiansen said. "You know, if you've got something that's rubbed you the wrong way with a sibling or maybe a parent, the holidays is definitely not the time to address that."

Safe Harbor in Aberdeen has a 24-7 crisis line for anyone needing help or someone to talk to. That number is 605-226-1212. Their website is also located to the right of this article.