Over the years, a number of factors have been linked to domestic violence, including substance abuse, mental illness, unemployment, and growing up in a home affected by domestic violence. Now, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) warns that physical and emotional family abuse may increase during the cold winter months.
According to RAINN, the organization’s National Sexual Abuse Hotline usage goes up significantly when winter weather hits, with calls increasing about 20 percent between fall and winter months. Why is this the case? Some domestic violence experts say that cold weather can mean that spouses are cooped up with each other in their homes and in situations where it is difficult to leave. This could mean that a drug or alcohol abuser could remain in the home while using, or that an abused partner has more trouble avoiding their spouse. In addition, severe weather could mean extra stress.
Winter weather may also mean that children are at home from school and activities, where they can be possible victims or witnesses of abuse.
What can abuse victims do to prevent domestic assaults during the cold winter months and winter storms? Experts advise victims of domestic violence to get out of bad situations before they escalate, and to have a plan in case physical violence does start during a storm or cold snap. Have an emergency bag packed with warm clothes and other emergency items, and be aware of nearby resources that could provide help and shelter. Also, be sure to report any abuse to the proper authorities.