Why domestic violence increases in January — and ways to help identify and assist victims

The number of domestic violence calls and intensity of abuse has been greatly increasing in New Jersey. In fact, since September 2021, the Center for Hope & Safety in Bergen County said, it has received a 110% increase in hotline calls — from an average of 59 calls to 124 calls — as well as an increase in victims looking for housing

Here’s a more troubling statistic: Calls for help always tend to have a surge in January.

Julye Myner, executive director at the Center for Hope & Safety, said the general public can help. Myner said the holidays provide crucial opportunities to recognize signs of domestic abuse and violence in family and friends who have been suffering silently behind closed doors.

Myner said domestic abuse is not always broken bones and bruises — that emotional abuse can be subtle, insidious and hard to recognize.

We asked Myner five questions on the topic — everything from warning signs to look out for to what to say when you think you observe signs of abuse. Here are her insights:

ROI-NJ: Why do calls for help tend to spike in January vs. December?

Julye Myner: The holiday season brings stress to many, which can lead to an escalation in domestic abuse. Alcohol consumption is another contributing factor. Victims tend to get through the holidays, and reach out for help afterwards, in January. The beginning of the new year is also a time for reflection and making life decisions, leading to taking the steps to leave an abuse relationship.

ROI: What can someone do if they feel they are in an abusive relationship? Please give insights on how to stay safe and escape planning.

JM: If you are in an abusive relationship you need to think about:

  • How you will leave;
  • Where you will go;
  • What you will bring;
  • Who will help you.

Even if you aren’t ready to leave now, being prepared can help you leave quickly and safely when you are ready. Making a safety plan helps to protect yourself and your children. For help creating a safety and escape plan, call our free 24/7 hotline at 201-944-9600.

Need to escape abuse?

Please call the Center for Hope & Safety hotline, 24/7, at 201-944-9600. For a full list of safety and escape planning items, click here.

ROI: Give us some warning signs of domestic abuse and tips on how to help a loved one in an abusive situation.

JM: Domestic violence almost is always associated with physical violence, but the truth is, domestic abuse can take many different forms, including emotional abuse; psychological abuse; financial abuse. In fact, research shows that financial abuse occurs in 99% of domestic violence cases.

Warning signs include:

  • Controlling behavior;
  • Humiliating you;
  • Instilling fear through threats;
  • Isolation;
  • Physical abuse.

Another form of domestic violence is coercive control, a strategic form of ongoing oppression and terrorism used to instill fear. The abuser will use tactics such gaslighting and name-calling, monitoring all communication and daily activity, and limiting access to money, as a controlling effort.

This often leads to victims losing their autonomy and it prevents them from escaping and crippling their own independence. Between 60-80% of women seeking assistance for abuse have experienced coercive control.

ROI: If you suspect abuse, what you can say to the victim?

JM: Here are some thoughts:

  • “I’m worried about you, and I want you to know that I’m always there for you, if you think you ever need anything.”
  • Resist the urge to give up on them even though it looks like they are making poor decisions by “putting up with the abuse.” Instead, try statements like, “I see you are really struggling and surviving some difficult/tough things; I want you to know you can count on me if you ever need any help.”
  • “I’m afraid for your safety, there are places you can call for help like Center for Hope & Safety.”

ROI-NJ: What resources does the Center for Hope & Safety provide, including safe housing, crisis intervention, legal services and counseling?

JM: Center for Hope & Safety offers a full spectrum of free services designed to address and support emotional, physical and financial healing, including:

  • A free, confidential hotline that operates 24/7 and provides crisis intervention and safety escape planning;
  • A safe house that provides emergency shelter;
  • Transitional housing while survivors rebuild their lives;
  • Children’s programs for those who are witnesses or victims of domestic violence, including counseling, art and music therapy, academic support and recreational activities;
  • An economic empowerment program, including career counseling, job development and housing services;
  • A legal services program to provide free legal representation, advice and counsel on restraining orders, appeals and emergent custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, etc.