Joyful gatherings, restful holidays and a peaceful time spent with family… unfortunately, this is frequently not the case for our clients involved in or healing from an abusive relationship with an intimate partner. Often, the abusive partner controls the merriment of the holiday season through varied forms of abuse. An abuser may have completely controlled the finances so their partner could not buy holiday gifts, a means of financial abuse. Or perhaps the abusive partner has allowed their partner to buy gifts but then decided on the morning of the holiday celebration that his partner or children do not deserve the gifts and attention. This act of emotional abuse could be because the abusive partner wants the attention, as he believes that his needs and wants are more important, or the abusive partner just decided to exert power and disposes of the gifts. An abusive partner may also practice emotional abuse by totally ignoring the holidays even though he knows it is important to his partner. As a women’s and children’s therapist at Genesis Women’s Outreach office, I have heard all these scenarios and more. While most of us revel in the holiday spirit, our clients can struggle even more with intense emotions like hopelessness. What should be a time of joy is often a time of shame. Holidays can be ruined by the anticipation of the abusive partner’s actions during the holidays. Or perhaps isolation from family and friends, a common tactic with abusive partners, is amplified for the client leaving the holidays hollow and empty. Knowing that we are going into a time of stress and safety concerns, we can help clients navigate the holidays. Please see below for services and suggestions for clients or prospective clients.
We encourage clients to proactively plan for both physical and emotional safety. For an example of a safety plan, you can view this page. While not all scenarios can be anticipated, safety planning is empowering for clients. Clients can learn about safety planning through attending counseling groups, meeting with advocates or requesting crisis sessions. (See additional past blog articles on safety planning here and here.)
With the added demands of the holidays, especially for a partner suffering from emotional abuse, acts of self-care are often overlooked and undervalued. Acts of self-care may range from being mindful of all your senses while drinking your morning cup of coffee to writing in a journal to process intense emotions to regularly exercising. It is through a routine of self-care, a topic of discussion in counseling groups, that clients can establish a foundation for healing.
During our Phase 1 group counseling, counselors emphasize domestic violence education and emotional coping skills. Clients also began to feel a sense of community and understanding from others who have experienced domestic abuse. Thus, clients can begin the healing process. We encourage women in a domestic violence relationship to reach out to learn how to take advantage of our free counseling services. If you are already a client, talk to your counselor or advocate about safety planning. Call us at 214.389.7700 to speak with a counselor who can help you get started with counseling, resume counseling or create a safety plan that fits your individual needs. Think of it as the best present you can give yourself!
Written by Belinda Cardwell, LMSW, counselor at Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support.