Domestic Violence, a Holiday Tradition, by Melissa Littles
A holiday wish list...
She was only seven years old, but as the teacher announced the school project for class that day she instantly felt a pit in her stomach and a lump in her throat. As she watched all of her classmates race to the craft table to get the top choice of paper color, crayons and glitter, she felt almost frozen to her seat. After all, nothing good could come from her making a Christmas list for Santa. It was just the final straw on the last day of school before the holiday break. What others looked forward to with such anticipation, she dreaded. She knew what being home all day, every day, at Christmas time was like. She remembered it well from last year, and bits and pieces of the chaos had already been coming to life each night when she went home. Startled by the tap on her shoulder, she quietly followed her teachers instructions and went to go pick out her paper.
As she sat in her seat, she let her eyes drift over to the other lists, she noticed all the wishes for toys, bikes and puppies. Some of her friends had to flip their papers over to make room for all their wishes. She knew she had to put something on that paper but she could only think of one thing she wanted. She knew she shouldn't write it. What if the teacher asked to see everyone's list? But, what if there really was a Santa? How could she not take the chance to get her wish? Maybe, she thought to herself, Santa could take her wish to God if he were too busy himself....maybe. As she saw her own hand put the crayon to the paper, she saw the words unfold as if not of her own will. As quickly as she wrote her wish, she folded up the paper, first in half, then in half again so there would be no chance of anyone but Santa seeing what she had done. She quietly tucked the paper down into her backpack. As the bell rang, she remembered what her teacher had said, she knew as long as she had written it down Santa would get it. Now all she had to do was find a trash can on the way out to the bus and tell Santa where she left it.
As the school janitor went about his nightly duties that evening, he grumbled to himself after yanking the trash bag out of the hall trash can so quickly, allowing all of its contents to spill out onto the hallway floor. He knew he was in a hurry to get home and start his break, but now he had made an extra job for himself, luckily it wasn't a cafeteria trash can. He normally would have never paid any mind to the bright red paper folded so neatly again and again, but you never know what kind of notes these kids nowadays pass back and forth. This could reveal some information about who had written all over the bathroom wall two days before. As he opened the paper, half by half, he had to read the words at least three times. Each time being more painful than the last as the meaning of this "wish list" became a reality in his mind. "Dear Santa, I don't want any toys for Christmas, I know I have been bad, I know its all my fault. Please Santa, please just let Daddy hit me on Christmas instead of Mommy. All I want is one day where Mommy doesn't cry".
Statistics show that incidents of domestic abuse significantly rise between November 1st and January 15th. Many abusers feel an increased sense of insecurity and feel the need to reinforce the control over their partner during the holidays where opportunities arise for time spent with family or co-workers. Many abusers feel a heightened sense of financial pressure during the holidays and feel the need to show their partner who will be controlling all the decisions about money spent during the holidays. The innocence of children coming home from school and asking about Santa and toys and the simple joys of the holidays can send an abuser into a rage over finances and the selfishness of his family for wanting materialistic things. Many victims will put plans of getting out on hold during the holidays because they feel a sense of guilt over disrupting their abuser and children during the holidays. Abusers also use the holidays as a way to force their partner into submission more so than other times with threats and promises. "If you are good, maybe I'll let you get the kids a present." "You really don't want to take time away from me to see your parents, now do you?", "I guess you'll have to come up with a reason why we're not spending our money on a present for you to take to an office party, for you to give to a man probably, that's what you would do, isn't it". "We'll see if you can behave, we'll just see".
Domestic violence touches the lives of Americans of all ages, leaving a devastating impact on women, men, and children of every background and circumstance. A family's home becomes a place of fear, hopelessness, and desperation when a woman is battered by her partner, a child witnesses the abuse of a loved one, or a senior is victimized by family members. During the holidays, statistics prove those who are suffering in an abusive relationship are at even greater risk. If you are a victim of domestic violence or know someone being abused call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, or call your local Department of Women and Children’s Family Services. There are resources available to victims of domestic violence and professionals who can help you or a loved one with information needed to implement a plan to get out safely.
And to those who want to give up hope, don't. You must keep going. You can get through it, you are worth it and it is not your fault.