Domestic Violence Spikes Over the Holidays, But Help is Available


By Melodie McCullough

Each year the holiday season brings a significant spike in domestic violence in Peterborough, Ontario, and elsewhere, but Jennifer Martin wants women to know the YWCA is here to help with its 24/7 crisis line, and even before a crisis point is reached with its START program._57435611_domestic1

“The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone,” said Martin, START and Family Court Support manager at YWCA Peterborough Haliburton.

Shelters and crisis lines will be very busy, she predicts, as will police and hospitals.

“Unrealistic expectations, financial stress and social pressure — all part of the holidays — can combine to lead to increases in domestic violence,” Martin said.

YWCA 24 Hour Crisis Line 1-800-461-7656 

Text 705-991-0110

“People are hanging on for one last chance, putting all the weight of these damaged relationships on the fragile structure of Christmas and making that a make-or-break thing,” she said.

There’s a good chance there will also be an increase in abusive interactions between former partners, said Martin, with emotions running high and “endless custody and access problems”. 

Domestic violence increases by 30% over the holiday period: Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses.

“The best thing women can do for their own mental health is to talk frankly about their situation. Hope for the best, but not without planning for the worst.”

That’s where the YWCA’s START (Support Team for Abuse Response Today) program comes in. Women are welcome to drop in to the YWCA (216 Simcoe Street, Peterborough) on Mondays anytime between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. for coordinated access to free, confidential services, whether they are ready to leave, or just have questions about the relationship. They only have to tell their story once to the START co-ordinator, who will connect them to skilled and compassionate service providers, ready and waiting to help.

“I want women to know that Mondays, Dec. 12 and 19, we can help with safety planning whether they are planning to leave or not,” said Martin. START will be available again Jan. 9 in the new year.

START Appointments 705-743-3526 or Drop In

“If you’re in a situation and you’re thinking this is the last Christmas, come and talk to START for your own physical safety, your kids’ safety and everyone’s emotional safety.”

If a crisis arises, there is a 24-hour crisis line (see above). Police and the hospital are also available to help. There is a 24-hour domestic violence response team at Peterborough Regional Health Centre, as well as 24-hour sexual assault response team, both through the Emergency Department.

24-Hour Sexual Assault Crisis Support Line:  1-866-298-7778

Martin notes that the holidays can often bring up memories for adults of past Christmases when they were children and witnessed abuse in the home. She encourages them (and anyone else) to help others by making a donation to the YWCA through its website: For example: a donation of $20 will pay for a cell phone for one week; $36 will cover the cost of emergency taxi transportation; for $45.96 a safe night’s sleep can be provided; and $100 will help ensure that the children’s playroom at Crossroads Shelter remains fully stocked, so kids can simply focus on play – just like kids should.

“It’s a triggering time in a lot of different ways,” said Martin. “It’s a good thing for folks to do to honour that place in themselves that they have left behind and help others who are in the process of rebuilding their lives.”

Call The Support And Crisis Line If:

  • You want to talk to a counsellor anytime of the day or night
  • You have questions or would like to talk to someone about your options, even if you aren’t planning to stay at one of our shelters
  • You need immediate support and assistance to deal with a dangerous situation
  • You feel that you and your children are ready to leave and wish to go to a safe place
  • You’d like to find out more so you can refer a friend or family member

Make An Emergency Escape Plan

The Emergency Escape Plan focuses on the things you can do in advance to be better prepared in case you have to leave an abusive situation very quickly. 

  • Contact  your local police service, Victim Services (1-866-376-9852) or a local shelter. Let the staff know you intend to leave and ask for support in safety planning. When talking to police, ask for an officer who specializes in abuse cases.
  • Request a police escort or ask a friend, neighbor or family member to accompany you when you leave.
  • Do not tell your partner you are leaving. Leave quickly.
  • If you are injured, go to a doctor, emergency room or clinic and report what happened to you. Ask them to document your visit. 
  • Have a back-up plan if your partner finds out where you are going.
  • Consult a lawyer. Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as photos. Keep a journal of all violent incidents, noting dates, events, threats and any witnesses.
  • Arrange for someone to care for your pets temporarily, until you get settled. A shelter may help with this.
  • Remember to clear your phone of the last number you called to avoid the abuser utilizing redial.

YWCA Peterborough Haliburton, 216 Simcoe Street, Peterborough, 705-743-3526;;



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