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For some families, a joyless Christmas

The Christmas holiday season is the best time of the year for all families, right? Wrong.
For some families, it’s a miserable time, especially when Dad is a spouse abuser or batterer. The Christmas season is when the wife beater is likely to do more damage, if not to her, then the kids, or the family pet, because the abuser wants to remind everyone that he is the most important person in the family, he wants attention, and he insists on maintaining iron-fisted control.
The normal tensions that come with the holidays (and also Super Bowl Sunday) can contribute to an increase in verbal, emotional and physical abuse, says Jane Carden, a treatment coordinator at The Haven, a domestic violence shelter in Salem that’s run by Hoosier Hills PACT.
Increased tension is often the result of disagreements over spending for gifts and decorations, or how the holidays should be “celebrated,” or visits by the in-laws. Plus, the children are out of school and in the home, which can lead to arguments over parenting.
Even when the family is “walking on eggshells,” trying everything in its limited power to keep the abuser from going off, he may do something dramatic to keep the attention on him. Throwing the Christmas tree out the door is a scenario Carden hears about in women’s support group meetings. Or the abuser may destroy Christmas gifts, kick the family dog, or turn the dinner table over. The goal is to intimidate the family and remind them who is in control.
Or there may be an acute battering indicent.
Officials at The Haven say, if you have a friend, acquaintance or relative who is living in an abusive situation, remind the victim that the shelter offers services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Even if all that is needed is a sympathetic listener, the help line is available, toll-free, at 1-888-883-1959.
Women’s support groups are available to any woman who is or has been in an abusive relationship. Group members often say that no one can understand you like someone who has been through the same kind of abuse.
There are also groups for abused men, and there is also help for men who do the abusing.
The best Christmas present the abuser can give to his family is an appointment with a counselor or therapist, which is a huge first step in stopping the cycle of abuse.