The Trauma of the Holidays
By Christina Parker-Benton - Former Prevail Client
As the end of the year draws near, the Holiday season can be a tough time for domestic violence victims and survivors alike. We feel suffocated by the masks we wear or tormented by flashbacks of holidays past. Victims cover up their sadness, fear, and pain behind masks with painted on smiles sometimes even applying make-up to conceal black eyes, bruises and scars. Survivors are haunted by seasonal songs, recipes, images or places that cause them to recall one of the many times they thought they were about to lose their life.
I remember one morning in November as a freshman in college, my abusive boyfriend pounding on my apartment door. I had just broken up with him the day before for punching & pushing me down to the ground repeatedly on the campus quad. That hadn’t been the first time he had been violent with me but at that point when no one stepped into help me, I felt I had to help myself. However, the sound of him aggressively knocking on my door rattled in my head as I awoke in a foggy state. I could barely remember the night before but the pain between my legs radiated as I glanced at my naked body. Dazed and confused, I pushed a long muscular arm off my body, grabbing a robe I proceeded to stagger to my front door. There my baby-faced athletic built ex smiled at me holding a frozen turkey in his hand. He charismatically began to apologize for beating me offering the turkey to help me earn extra credit in a class through the holiday donation. Sick to my stomach both by his half-hearted apology and whatever I had ingested the night before, nearly falling over I leaned onto him.
The same long muscular arm emerged from my room. My ex grew aggressive. An angry evil I had seen far too often. The arm belonged to a young man who was an acquaintance. He lived across the hall and we had many classes together. The guys exchanged words and it took all the energy I barely had to keep them from fighting. Somehow I ended up riding with my ex back to his parent's house across town as he cussed me out for cheating on him. During the ride I began to recall the night before. I had been given a drink by the acquaintance and then raped.
I have countless stories where the holidays are backdrops to the abuse I had endured over my life. I’m sure others can relate to the painful memories or dangerous present they are facing this holiday season. This time of year seems to bring a heightened intensity in the rage of an abuser. Maybe it's the fear of them being found out by family and friends because it's harder to keep the victim isolated during a time of year that encourages getting together with others? Maybe it's unrealistic expectations of the holidays they place on the victims to prepare the perfect meal, hang the perfect decorations, or give the perfect gifts?
Whatever the reason is, it is never an excuse for someone to abuse you. So to all the victims it's okay to take off the mask, reach out and get the help you need. Gift that to yourself this year! To all the survivors out there remember you’re free, make some new memories that you can look back on and smile. And to all the family & friends of victims learn to recognize the signs so you can lovingly offer the support they need. Remember, survivors WE are strong! There is no level of anxiety or PTSD that will ever disqualify us from the love, joy and freedom we deserve.
Just keep growing & living your best life. Hear us! Believe us! Support us!
Founder of Romans 8:28 Counseling