April Lemming with the Bridge Children's Advocacy Center
Abuse victims are flocking to area shelters in record numbers, escaping from violence caused by the holiday and economic stress. Last year, the Family Support Services Shelter helped more than three hundred women and children. This year, those cases are up substantially.
April Lemming with the Bridge Children's Advocacy Center says family violence doesn't discriminate. "It can happen to any culture, anywhere, by anyone."
It's happening right here in Amarillo. Usually, December is pretty slow at the Family Support Services Crisis Shelter, but this year, that's changing. Shelter Manager Melissa Crafton says women usually, "seek services after the holidays are over and that's typically what we have seen the last couple of years. However this holiday season we've had a steady need for our shelter services."
Crafton credits it to the struggling economy and holiday stress. "Batterers don't like losing power and control and that's the way a lot of people have been feeling lately with the economic times the way they are and the holiday season here.
"That loss of control can often lead to child abuse as well, especially at Christmas, when the entire family is together, since kids are more likely to be abused by someone they know. Sexual abuse cases often go up during the holidays, but in an effort to keep Christmas pleasant, many kids don't report it until January, according to Lemming.
"They go back to school and that provides them another avenue to report someone. Children often to report to school professionals instead of to their family because they might be afraid of their reaction." Since children are more likely to be abused by someone they know, Crisis Services Coordinator Angie Stovall says there are a few things you can do to keep your child safe during big holiday get-togethers.
"Continue to provide supervision to [your] kids, to let [your] kids know that they shouldn't have blind obedience to any adult.
If you are a victim or know someone who is a victim, you can contact Family Support Services by calling their 24-hour Crisis Hotline at (806) 374-LIFE. If you live outside Amarillo, you can call 1-800-749-9026.
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