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Does Domestic Violence Follow the Seasons?

Some report more incidents during the summer when certain factors add more stress

  • May 22, 2017
  • By domesticshelters.org
Does Domestic Violence Follow the Seasons?

As the summer months approach, are domestic violence hotlines expecting to see a spike in the number of calls? Some say yes. Be it coincidence or a multitude of factors that contribute to—but not cause—domestic violence, some survivors living with abusive partners come to dread the hot season.

The Cherokee Violence Family Center in Canton, Ga., says they do see an uptick in domestic violence during the summer. The reasons they list include:

  • Increased stress due to children being around more frequently
  • Hot summer temperatures
  • More summer parties that can increase alcohol abuse

While advocates would wholeheartedly agree that domestic violence cannot be blamed on alcohol, or temperatures or children, these factors can play a role in contributing to an abusive partner’s already existing behavior.

DarKenya Waller, managing attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, provides free legal representation and counsel to survivors of domestic violence.

“I have no scientific proof, however, based on my experience, I would agree that it's a fairly accurate statement to say that domestic abuse increases during the summer months,” Waller says. “Summertime is like a transition time—people are making decisions about where they want themselves and their children to be before school starts. If a breakup is going to occur, they want it to occur during the summer so they can plan for the fall and the holidays.”

In a paper titled, “Heat and Violence,” Iowa State University Professor Craig Anderson compares crime data between hot and not-as-hot states, and proposes a “heat hypothesis” that says hot temps can increase aggression by directly increasing feelings of hostility and indirectly increase aggressive thoughts.

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However, Ruth Rollins sees it differently. An advocate for the past 19 years, and currently the community outreach coordinator at the Elizabeth Stone House in Boston, she doesn’t subscribe to the idea that domestic violence follows any sort of seasonal pattern. Except, maybe, for one group.

“Teen dating violence may increase. Teens have more idle time in the summer.”

While no concrete studies link teen dating violence to the summer months, the Department of Justice says women between ages 16 and 24 are at the highest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence. (See the results of our survey here where we asked survivors when they first experienced domestic violence.) BreaktheCycle.org reports one out of every three teens experiences some kind of dating abuse.

“Especially when there’s abuse happening at home—they tend to duplicate it, not knowing it’s not a healthy relationship,” Rollins says.

Are the Holidays a Dangerous Time, Too?

Similar theories exist around the holiday season, claiming reports of domestic violence drop around Christmas and spike again come New Year’s Eve and New Year’s day.

“It isn’t uncommon to see women leave a shelter around the holidays to normalize things—especially if children are in the picture—to be close to family or a faith community, only to come right back once the festivities are over,” Kenya Fairley, senior director of capacity building and education at the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, told The Atlantic in 2014.

Yet, Monica McLaughlin, deputy director of public policy at the National Network to End Domestic Violence told The Huffington Post last December that perpetuating this myth about the holiday spike only reinforces a lack of understanding about how abusers operate.

While acts of physical violence may fluctuate in frequency over the course of a relationship, she says, the power and control that underpins the abuse remains constant.

“Coercive control doesn’t take a vacation,” she told the news source. “It’s there all the time.”

Spikes Related to Current Events

Seasons aren’t the only times spikes in reports of domestic violence are seen.

The News Journal reported domestic violence crisis hotlines in Delaware experienced a 42 percent surge in calls last June, around the same time the Presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were announced. They hadn’t fielded that many calls since 9/11.

Similarly, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network saw a 33 percent uptick in calls after the news clip was released revealing Trump made inflammatory comments about grabbing women, reported ABC News.

What Can You Do?

Survivors who are currently with an abusive partner should consider reaching out to a trained domestic violence advocate to discuss their options—be it safety planning, talking about shelter options, obtaining an order of protection or simply finding support.