Angel gave up the material comforts of a middle-class lifestyle to provide her children with something for Christmas she has never been able to give them before: Safety, security and hopefully, happiness.
"I didn’t want to end up dead," Angel said. "Christmas is going to be hard. I won’t have to worry about whether or not I’ll be thrown through a wall, but we also won’t get to be with our family. We keep bouncing from place to place, and with it being Christmas, my kids can’t see their grandparents."
Angel, whose real name is not being used to protect her and her children, escaped an abusive relationship less than two weeks ago. Her abuser, who once threw rocks at her for walking away from an argument, found her hiding at a shelter, so she took her children to another location.
Domestic violence shelters across the East Valley remain full throughout the year, including the holidays.
Leah Meyers, director of domestic violence services at the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said domestic violence can be exacerbated by the holidays. As families and friends gather, victims may be offered more help, leaving perpetrators feeling they are losing control, she said. Increased alcohol consumption also contributes.
"I think a lot of people make an assumption that it increases due to the stress. Stress does not cause domestic violence. Domestic violence is caused by wanting to exert power and control over another individual," Meyers said.
Autumn House program manager Dawn Meadows said the Mesa shelter is full yearround, but she believes the need is more evident this time of year.
"Based on what I see here, we see an increase in domestic violence during the holidays," she said. "There is more alcohol consumption at the holidays, people have time off and spend more time together, and finances could be a factor."
Patricia Klahr, executive director for the Scottsdale shelter Chrysalis, sees a collision of factors at work.
"I think anytime during the holidays it’s a stressful time and you couple that with the economy, or how you were raised or just being in a bad situation and things happen," Klahr said.
Christie McClendon, director of My Sister’s Place domestic violence shelter in Chandler, said the shelter tries to make the holidays a little easier for clients by giving them a sense of safety and honoring their family traditions.
"Like with any woman coming in here, we create a sense for them so they know they and their children are safe," McClendon said. "Beyond that, we recognize their family traditions. For example, if they have certain types of food during the holidays, we try to provide the same opportunities for carrying on those traditions here."
For Angel, Christmas offers a chance for a new beginning and a renewed hope for a life without domestic violence. She said she wants others to know that there is hope for them, too.
"There is someplace for them to get away and be safe," she said. "No matter where they are, there is a place like this where they can get away and be safe. There is something different. There is life without the fear and violence and insecurity."
E.V. domestic violence shelters
• My Sister’s Place, Chandler, (480) 821-1024
• Autumn House, Mesa, call the PREHAB office at (480) 464-4648
• Chrysalis, Scottsdale, (480) 481-0402