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Domestic violence victims seek help less during the holidays

Calls for help dramatically decrease while police cases increase

Police reports indicate that calls for domestic violence spike during the holidays even though few seek services. 

Longmont Ending Domestic Violence Initiative, or LEVI, works to reduce domestic violence in Longmont. The organization works closely with area domestic violence service providers and the Longmont Police Department to track domestic violence cases.

Referencing data collected since 2019, Ashley Mendez Ruiz, LEVI project coordinator, said there is a clear indication that domestic violence increases during the holidays. 

In 2019, cases referred to LEVI numbered 58 in October, 93 in November, 89 in December and 87 in January 2020. The following year — the first holiday season during the pandemic — the numbers decreased slightly to 58 in October, 83 in November, 84 in December and 75 in January 2021.

So far, domestic violence cases this year, 2022, have outpaced previous years with 76 cases reported in October and 88 reported in November. December and January numbers are still unknown.

In November 2022 alone, the number of cases increased significantly the week around Thanksgiving Day. In week one there were 23 reported cases, in week two there were 20, in week three there were 16 and week four had 34 reported cases.

LEVI marks the week from Wednesday morning to the end of the day Tuesday. It is also important to note that the average number of cases received by the police each week is 15.

Behind the happy faces and holiday cheer the holiday season brings, stress lurks for everyone. There is pressure to have the “perfect” holiday with the magazine picture-perfect table and an abundance of presents under the tree, said Jackie List, executive director of Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley.

Mendez Ruiz added that financial stress is a contributing factor any time of the year but can increase during the holiday season because of family obligations and the challenge to give gifts. 

“The consumption of alcohol plays a big role too,” she added. “A lot of issues arise when families get together and there is alcohol involved; not only between intimate partner violence but also family violence in general.” 

Although the police respond to more domestic violence calls and resources are shared with victims, it is up to them to seek out or accept the services. 

“The nature of the circumstances, they (victims) do report it or other people report it but they are less likely to ask for or receive services or seek shelter because it is the holidays. It depends on their circumstances, but a lot of the times because it is the holiday and there are kids involved or their family is visiting or the different dynamics are the reasons why they don’t necessarily accept or look for shelter and DV services,” Mendez Ruiz said. 

According to List, this is one of the reasons she believes the phones at Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley, whose public office is located at 82 21st Ave, Longmont, go nearly silent during the holidays.

List did not have statistics for Safe Shelter but the National Domestic Violence Hotline, or NDVH, reported the same occurrence.

On an average day in 2019, the NDVH recorded 870 calls for assistance. On Thanksgiving Day the calls dropped to 467. There were an average of 6,102 calls the week of Thanksgiving which dropped to 5,261 the week of and 5,905 the following week.

During a 17-day period beginning Dec. 15, 2019 to Jan. 1, 2020, the NDVH recorded 14,499 calls to its hotline versus its average 17-day count of 14,790.

“I think ours (our numbers) is really reflective of that,” List said. “We just do not get very many calls, we don’t have very many people requesting shelter — although that varies year-to-year.” 

List hopes things will change this year as the organization is using a new program LAPS which stands for Legal Assessment Protocol. 

LAPS allows officers responding to domestic violence cases to provide an opportunity for the victim to reach out to Safe Shelter directly and immediately.

“That may change those statistics a little bit. We’re not getting calls from people on their own but if officers are there during an incident and they are encouraging the person to speak with someone confidentially — totally confidentially — we may end up getting more calls,” List said.

Since the program began in Longmont, the calls coming into Safe Shelter have increased substantially, List said. 

Gathering with family and friends can be especially difficult for a home that includes domestic violence. According to List, it can be difficult to maintain the falsehood that everything is ok and also brave what family and friends may say while they are there. 

Here are a few tips List suggests considering if you suspect that someone is a victim of domestic violence:

  • Listen to what the victim is saying without judgment. Never criticize the abuser or the victim. 
  • Validate the victim's feelings.
  • Offer support to the victim. This includes offering to let them use your phone, watching children while the victim works or providing information on how the person can seek help when they are ready.

If someone is in immediate danger, call 911. For those not in immediate danger but who need to talk to an advocate, the 24/7 Crisis Line is always open at 303-772-4422.

Victims can also visit the Safe Shelter public office at 82 21st Ave, Longmont. List said even if no one is there, victims can call the Crisis Line and someone will arrive quickly. 

LEVI is also available to help and support victims and can be reached at 303-774-4534.