Experts say that two events make circumstances significantly worse for victims of domestic abuse: lockdowns and the holiday season. Anything that causes victims to be stuck at home with their abusers can be a dangerous situation for the former. We need to find ways to extend practical help without aggravating their situation or making them vulnerable to even more danger than they are already in.
The holidays are not the easiest time for women stuck at home with their abusers. Here are some ways to extend safe help to victims of domestic abuse this holiday season.
Find ways to help them financially
Not many people know that one of the most commonly reported types of elder abuse in the United States is financial abuse. The following are examples of financial abuse and how it can take place in a marriage or family setting:
- Withholding, stealing, and restricting the use of money are some examples. Controlling behavior, in general, is an indicator of monetary abuse.
- A family member gets stuck in a cycle of borrowing, gambling, and other unhealthy financial behavior and expects their victim to pay for everything and constantly bail them out of consequences or trouble. This is a strong indicator of codependency in the relationship, and it’s also an example of the abuser exploiting the victim’s financial resources.
- Another is criticizing the other’s financial decisions, even ones that are sound and healthy.
The above are just a few of the many examples of how financial abuse in a household can take place. If you know someone in this situation, find ways to hand them monetary support without their abuser knowing. You can also help them get in touch with a collections lawyer if collectors are already harassing them. Just make sure to do everything discreetly so that their abuser does not gain access to the help you provided.
Establish safeguards if things escalate
Here are some safety precautions you can help build with the victim if things at home escalate further:
- Offer yourself as an advanced ally. The thing with abuse is that it almost always escalates; if it’s only verbal, emotional, or financial abuse now, you can be sure that it will eventually evolve into physical violence as well.
- Agree on a safe word or phrase so that they can easily call or text you, and with that one word or phrase, you already know to call the cops or 911.
- Keep a bag of their things and money in your house in case they need to make a run for it during the holiday season. If they have kids, make sure you have some of their change of clothes and other necessities as well.
- Help them establish an escape plan. One example is being ready with your car in case the abuser falls asleep and his victims can now safely leave the house. Just be on stand-by, and remind the victim that you are always ready any time they need help leaving the house.
- Get a partner with you. You can’t be the ally alone; you need to have another friend working with you in helping the victim.
- If the victim has access to their phone, check in with them regularly. You can decide on some code words if you’re worried their abuser will read the messages or listen to their calls. For example, if the victim says, “It’s sunny outside,” it means everything is calm at home. If they say, “It’s cloudy,” then the abuser must be in a bad mood, and things might escalate soon.
Provide other helpful resources
If you are not a therapist or any kind of mental health professional, it’s OK to know your limits because if you continue insisting on helping on your own and you are not fully equipped or trained to do so, you might do more harm than good. Make sure to provide the victim with helpful resources, like crisis hotline numbers, support groups, and even a therapist or a counselor. Don’t take on the task by yourself; partner with other friends who can help you bring your friend to safety.
A note on helping
To truly be able to help, you need to understand that situations of domestic abuse are not straightforward and that no two cases are the same. Embrace the situation’s complexity and everything that stands in the way of your friend getting out. If the victim agrees, reach out to the authorities as soon as possible—their and their kids’ safety is of utmost importance, and don’t take on the challenge on your own.