6 On Your Side: Domestic Violence Winter Increase - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

6 On Your Side: Domestic Violence Winter Increase

First Step Inc. in Wichita Falls sees a dramatic increase in clients during the winter, according to Executive Director Rosalind Strickland.

There are a number of reasons victims choose this time of year to flee. The cold can keep families cooped up together with no escape for the abuser or victim.

"You're going to find that when people are in close proximity together, it can tend to cause some friction," said Strickland. "So we'll see that abusers will tend to abuse more in that time."

The stress of the holidays also play a major role, but even the New Year doesn't bring relief.

"As you start going into the new year, what you may see is that conflicts may arise because of tax returns, you may see a layoff during the new year," said Strickland. "Also the bills, like the money that was spent on these credit cards, now become a reality for these families."

Strickland said many victims try to go home after the holiday season, but just end up escalating the situation. "People may tend to go back and think that everything is going to be ok. 'Money will fix it, you know, it will make it better,'" said Strickland. "But it just doesn't happen that way."

The increased number of domestic violence cases in the winter is not reflected in the amount of reports made to the Wichita Falls police department. However, Strickland said victims of abuse will often go to organizations like First Step before going to the police.

Strickland said the victim may want to stay anonymous, not want to escalate the situation with a police report, or may be being threatened by the abuser.

First Step provides an anonymous resource for victims. The agency even offers a shelter at a secret location so abusers can not track them down.

You can call First Step's crisis hotline 24 hours a day at 1-800-658-2683. They also offer a wide range of other resources on their website, including a "Personal Safety Plan" to get out quickly, instructions on erasing your web history and help identifying if you are in an abusive situation.

Christina Myers

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