KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, but for many, especially victims of domestic violence, they can be the exact opposite.
According to Newhouse, a domestic violence shelter, they received 1,215 calls during the 2021 winter holiday season, a jump from 409 calls during the summer.
Safehome, a non-profit organization and domestic violence shelter, also received calls during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, including 10 on Black Friday, seven on New Year's Eve, six on Christmas Day, five on New Year's Day and one on Christmas Eve.
Kimberly Sligh, a local survivor and mother of 3, says she was abused and remembers how tough the holidays were on her family.
“I was told the five ways that he would kill me and to make it look like a suicide or an accident,” Sligh said.
This was the scary reality for Sligh, who says the emotional abuse all started in 2015.
“It started with gaslighting,” Sligh said.
Sligh says it was in 2018 when the abuse turned physical and she feared for her life.
“There was an AR-15 that was pulled from underneath the bed by my 3-year-old,” Sligh said. “I did not know that gun was even in our house, so when that happened in my mind, I thought, 'Could this be for me?'”
Sligh and her kids finally got to safety in 2020 after reaching out to Newhouse. However, she says before finding shelter, her holidays were anything but bright.
“I was always quiet and trying to mediate between him and my family,” Sligh said. “Holidays were spent walking on eggshells.”
Sligh says her abuser controlled her finances, making it hard to even buy gifts for her family.
“I couldn’t just go out and buy my parents gifts or the kids," Sligh said. "They were dictated on essentially what he felt like was necessary or appropriate."
Claudia Dawson, an attorney with Safehome, says abuse is high during the holiday due to added stressors.
“When money is tight, it creates stress," Dawson said. "And when somebody is stressed, if they don't know how to deal with it and they don't have coping mechanisms, that can turn into abuse, and turn into a situation where one person is trying to exercise power and control over another.”
Dawson says this type of control and isolation can make holiday dinners with family turn cold.
Over at Newhouse, Lead Children's Therapist Laveeda Simmons says there are signs loved ones should look out for this holiday season.
“If they are canceling a lot of events or gatherings with the family,” Simmons said. “If they are quiet or secluded, or they are not responding to phone calls, for the children, if they are bed wetting or they are not communicating if they kind of shut down.”
However, Dawson says not every sign is easy to spot. Some damage might be internal, and it's important that families create a safe space.
“Signs could be different for everybody," Dawson said. "Maybe somebody's late, or somebody at the dinner table just feels withdrawn. Just make sure that you are open to receiving that information if somebody does disclose that that is taking place.”
Nonetheless, this holiday season, Safehome and Newhouse want domestic violence victims to know they have a place to go.
“There is hope you have an opportunity to be safe,” Simmons said.
If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation, Newhouse and Safehome both offer 24-hour hotline services:
Newhouse - (816) 471-5800
Safehome - (913) 262-2868