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Central Florida non-profits ready to help amid holiday increase in domestic violence

ORLANDO, Fla. — While the holidays can be a great time for making memories with family, they can also serve as a tension point for many in our community.

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Local domestic violence advocacy groups say they historically see more calls to their hotline and more people seeking shelter around the holidays.

Stand Up Survivor’s Executive Director, Lisa Alexander, said it’s a trend she now expects.

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In the 8 years since she founded Stand Up Survivor, Alexander notes that calls to her domestic violence non-profit climb during the holidays ahead of the new year.

Monthly call data from October to November of 2023 show calls to Stand Up Survivor’s hotline nearly doubled and have continued to climb in the month of December.

“They are looking for help for shelter, for support services, for counseling, all of these things are coming in,” said Alexander.

As families gather, Alexander said conditions that can trigger domestic abuse are heightened including more alcohol consumption, financial stress, and family tension as kids are home from school.

Meanwhile, at Central Florida’s state certified domestic violence shelter, Harbor House, the spike tends to come immediately after the Christmas holiday.

Internal data shared with us show the number of kids entering shelter nearly doubled from December of 2022 to January of 2023.

Meanwhile, hotline calls to their 24/7 line also saw a big increase after January 1st of 2023.  In December of 2022, 764 calls were made to Harbor House, but more than 900 hotline calls came in January of 2023.

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Harbor House’s grant manager Laura Lucy notes that abuse happens year-round, but around the New Year, some victims who opted to stay for winter holidays start to seek change.

“A new year is always a great time for a new start. So, a lot of people will start looking into those options of you know, can I go to a shelter? Do I have friends and family that will support me in this time?,” explained Lucy.

“You shouldn’t have to be covering up bruises when you go see your family for Christmas, That’s not normal. That’s when a light bulb goes off for a lot of people,” added Alexander.

National statistics show 1 in 3 women experience some form of physical domestic violence, and Alexander said as you gather with family, it’s important to recognize signs of abuse.

“Is it warm outside and they’re wearing a turtleneck or long sleeves? Are they anxious or jumpy? Are you noticing that they’re withdrawn and they’re always constantly on their phone having to answer their phone?

Alexander also gave some advice to anyone who suspects their loved one is a victim of abuse.

“Do not confront them in front of their abuser, maybe pull them to the side, invite them to go to the store to go shopping with you to grab something quick. Give them an opportunity to share with you in a private setting,” said Alexander.

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If you’re in a dangerous relationship. There are resources available to help.

Florida’s domestic violence hotline is available any time, day or night. That phone number is 1-800-500-1119.

You can also call the following local hotlines:

Stand Up Survivor:  321-430-5307.

Harbor House of Central Florida : 407-886-2856.

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