SafeHouse offers help, resources during the holidays for victims of domestic violence

Published 4:02 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2023

By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

SafeHouse, a 501c3 nonprofit that provides domestic and sexual violence response, prevention and intervention programs for the communities of Shelby, Coosa, Clay and Chilton counties, wants those in need to know that there are resources for them during the holidays.

In a recent blog released by the organization, Mary Katherine Thorn points out that the season, which for most represents great memories of cheerful family gatherings, traditions and decorations, can have entirely different connotations and sentiments.

“Amid this euphoric atmosphere, it is important to recognize that not everyone shares in these sentiments,” Thorn said. “For survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, the holiday season may hold a starkly different reality. For survivors, the holidays may be marked by distress, triggers and emotional turmoil.”

Furthermore, Thorn points out that the season most commonly recognized as one of merriment can instead represent a time of increased stress, anxiety and challenges for those surviving after incidents or periods of domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

Provided the common sources of such violence, holiday festivities calling back to family gatherings can serve as potent triggers to some that evoke memories of past trauma and experiences of abuse. The season’s emphasis on such gatherings can paradoxically deepen feelings of isolation for those undergoing these situations.

Peer pressure and social norms calling for everyone to partake in family and public gatherings and financial strains brought on from the holidays can also intensify stress, emotional distress, anxiety and fear during this time. One example Thorn lists are such situations where a survivor may have severed ties with abusive family members and now lack a supportive network.

SafeHouse, in propagating their mission, encourages anyone undergoing these symptoms and situations to practice several steps, the first of which is that of safety planning.

“Consider creating a personalized safety plan tailored to your circumstances,” Thorn said. “Identify safe spaces, trusted contacts and strategies to exit triggering situations if they arise. Having a safety plan can empower you to prioritize your well-being and navigate potential risks effectively.”

Those actively in a domestic violence situation or in need of help are always encouraged by the organization to call the SafeHouse Crisis Line at 205-669-7233, where help can be organized and a safety plan can be drafted and developed.

SafeHouse also places emphasis on the importance of prioritizing self-care during the bustle of the season, which includes setting boundaries and allowing oneself to exit situations that cause stress.

“Sometimes self-care means acknowledging your limits and giving yourself permission to step away from gatherings or interactions that feel overwhelming,” Thorn said. “It could also entail choosing to focus your time and energy on trusted people who provide you with much needed emotional backing and a sense of belonging during challenging times. Connecting with individuals who offer understanding and empathy can serve as a valuable resource. And if you’re struggling to find those people organically, the time might be right to commit to a support group or seek out counseling.”

In that spirit, SafeHouse offers free and confidential counseling services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault to provide the help that can aid those individuals in coping with stressors of the season. Seeking that help, in a supportive environment, can promote healing.

“As you are surviving the holidays after domestic violence or sexual assault, know that you are not alone,” Thorn said. “Your resilience and strength in facing these challenges deserve recognition. Remember, prioritizing your safety, well-being and emotional health is paramount. You have the power to set boundaries, seek support and engage in self-care practice that empower you on this journey toward healing.”

Additional resources recommended by SafeHouse include:

  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network): A national sexual assault hotline that provides confidential support and resources. 1-800-656-4673 or Rainn.org.
  • Love is Respect: Offers support, information and advocacy to young people affected by dating abuse. Text “LOVEIS” to 22522 or call 1-866-9474.

“Remember, seeking help is a courageous step towards healing,” Thorn said. “You have the strength to overcome challenges. Additionally, there are dedicated organizations and individuals ready to support you on your journey toward safety and empowerment. You deserve to feel safe, valued and supported throughout this holiday season and beyond.”