A few days before Christmas last year, Sarah Blake* told her husband she had decided to take the kids to visit her grandmother on Christmas Day after celebrating with his family. He was angry: he wanted her to stay with him at his parents' house instead. He hit Sarah, breaking her arm. When she returned from the hospital later that day, she was determined to pack up her children and seek shelter with a local domestic violence service agency. But then she thought about her 4-year-old twins and how disappointed they would be to celebrate Christmas in a shelter. So she stayed.
The holidays can be a stressful time for families. And they are especially stressful and dangerous for families dealing with domestic violence. The holiday season can mean more hours spent with an abuser or increased tension sparked from money issues. Abusive partners often isolate their victims from family members and friends. Can you imagine a lonelier season for a victim than one dedicated to making special memories with the very people they've been cut off from?
At the National Domestic Violence Hotline, where we serve over 250,000 people impacted by domestic violence every year, our callers typically experience an increase in abuse during the holiday months. However, the number of calls for help and shelter intakes actually decreases because many women, like Sarah, grin and bear it to keep their families happy.
The exact numbers aren't known, because it's impossible to measure how many people are suffering in silence.
As Sarah, who left her husband this year, put it, "Every year, the season made me put off leaving my abusive ex, and it seemed like there was always a holiday around the corner."
Since 1995, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has operated a 24/7 hotline that offers more than just a bridge to safety for victims. The hotline is available to callers 365 days a year and provides services in more than 170 languages, answering more than 600 confidential calls each day. At the hotline, our advocates provide a vital link to safety, helping victims, survivors, concerned family and friends find services in their local areas. We answer calls like Sarah's every day.
Unfortunately, the need is often overwhelming and advocates are not able to answer all of the calls, even with the decrease in calls around the holidays. Last year, 52,000 calls went unanswered because of a lack of resources. This fact is especially sobering with the knowledge that many victims may only reach out for help once.
We want to make sure that we are always available to answer the most important call of a victim's life. This year, we've established an exciting partnership with the Avon Foundation for Women, the world's largest corporate-affiliated philanthropy focused on issues that matter most to women. Thanks to their tremendous generosity, the Avon Foundation will launch a #GivingTuesday program on December 3 benefitting the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
The program will build off of a global Avon Foundation social media campaign -- #SeeTheSigns -- which will educate domestic violence victims and bystanders about the often hidden signs of domestic abuse during the internationally recognized 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence that began on November 25, right at the start of the holiday season.
The Avon Foundation will match donations made directly to the Hotline from Dec. 1 - Dec. 31 up to $200,000. The commitment to double each gift makes #GivingTuesday the ideal time to give. The matching gift by the Avon Foundation could enable us to staff an additional 12,477 hours of advocate time, possibly helping an estimated 23,695 additional people.
Imagine a holiday season filled with fear, loneliness and hopelessness. This Giving Tuesday, donors can be the difference between a caller hearing an unending ringtone, or a live voice that offers hope, support, safety and a connection to life-saving services.
With every one in four women affected by domestic violence, we all know, or will know, someone for whom this abuse is a terrible reality. Together, we can help change this statistic.
* Name changed to protect victim's identity.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in celebration of #GivingTuesday, which will take place this year (2013) on December 3. The idea behind #GivingTuesday is to kickoff the holiday-giving season, in the same way that Black Friday and Cyber Monday kickoff the holiday-shopping season. We'll feature at least one post from a #GivingTuesday partner every weekday in November. To see all the posts in the series, click here; follow the conversation via #GivingTuesday and learn more here.
And if you'd like to share your own #GivingTuesday story, please send us your 500-850-word post to firstname.lastname@example.org.