This holiday season is one of the busiest for law enforcement who receive constant calls about burglaries and thefts.
“You have to add domestic violence calls into that also,” Hackleburg Police Chief Kenny Hallmark said.
Authorities said they see a spike in the number of domestic violence calls during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“It can be attributed to just the fact of everything that is going on during that time,” Tuscumbia police Chief Tony Logan said. “There’s always more stress around the holidays, and then add in the hustle and bustle of trying to get things done, going here and there, it just all adds up and can take a toll on people.
“And sometimes everything mixed together can be a recipe for major issues.”
That happened last week in Albertville.
Police said a Thanksgiving dinner ended with two people being shot as a result of a domestic dispute. Reports indicate a man shot his estranged wife and then shot himself.
Law enforcement officials said that’s a scenario that occurs far too often.
Rachel Cabaniss, executive director of Safeplace, said the bed occupancy rate at the shelter always rises during the holiday season. Safeplace is a nonprofit organization that provides shelter for adults and children in a six-county region in northwest Alabama.
The area’s largest police department, Florence, had 1,129 domestic violence calls in 2010 and 1,132 in 2011.
Department records indicate in 2010 there were 166 domestic calls during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, while there were 196 in the 2011 holiday season.
“Domestic violence is never about what day it is or about how much money is available or about whose family member is the most dramatic,” Cabaniss said. “It’s always about power and control. The holidays just offer up more challenges for the abusers to make sure his partner is complying with and not challenging his rules.”
Cabaniss said many times stress stems from expectations.
“Not only the expectations on us from family, but also the expectations we put on ourselves for cooking the perfect meal, buying the perfect gifts, attending the children’s holiday activities and maintaining family traditions,” she said. “These expectations come all at one time, and while there can be joy and celebration, it takes a lot of extra to make it all come together.
“We want everything perfect, but for many families there is a looming cloud over the holidays. For someone who is in an unhealthy relationship, the holidays can be tumultuous because expectations collide.
“In an abusive relationship, the world revolves around the person in control. During the holidays, attention that usually goes to the abuser is spread out to the whole family and all of the activities of the season.”
Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said violence can escalate in situations where there already are domestic problems.
“It just ignites emotions that can lead to violence,” Rushing said. “Holidays are stressful without any kind of added emotions or problems. Throw domestic or abusive tendencies into the mix and it just becomes more volatile.”
Hallmark said domestic calls are also stressful for law enforcement officers.
“Because you really don’t know what you are walking into,” Hallmark said. “You’re walking into a situation where there are emotions on both sides. They may be mad at each other, but they’re going to take up for each other. They don’t want no one else to be involved.
“And we’re walking into this situation trying to settle everyone down and keep someone from getting hurt. There’s times when that’s not the easiest thing to do.”
Rushing said once someone is arrested for domestic violence, he puts them in a program to teach them how to deal with anger and stressful situations.
“Hopefully, through the program, which is taught by Safeplace, these offenders will learn different strategies on how to deal with stressful situations,” Rushing said. “We want them to be able to keep from reaching that point where they lose control and become abusive or violent.”
Hallmark said there are “no routine domestic calls.”
“It happens every year. I’ve already had some domestic (calls) involving money for Christmas.”
“Every officer hopes and prays for a quiet holiday, with very few calls, especially domestic calls,” Logan said. “But unfortunately, domestic calls are like a sad holiday tradition.”
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.