Domestic Violence During the Holidays

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The American Institute on Domestic Violence reports that more than five million women are abused each year. Some experts say a spike in domestic violence occurs during the holidays.

This week bicycles, dolls and clothing line the walls of Leon County's Refuge House. Each gift is to be received by a possible witness to domestic violence.

Natasha Clayton, a staff member of the Refuge House, says, "It just makes me so excited to know how excited all of the kids are going to be on Christmas morning."

Over 70 families will receive a special blessing, dozens of children who may be worried about what's going on.

"They worry at first, just like moms do, about what they're going to do next, and if it's going to be safe for them, if dad is going to come and get them or whoever is going to hurt mom again," says staff member Rebecca Brock.

Executive Director Meg Baldwin says the holidays can be an emotional and intense time, and that those in abusive situations often wait until after the holidays before seeking help.

"Moms try really hard to keep the family over the holidays to create that sense of safety and normality for their children," says Baldwin, who feels abuse victims should know there are options available and that many children who come to the shelter see it as a vacation.

"I just want to give a big Refuge House welcome to those families today, tomorrow, Christmas Eve, midnight, Christmas Day, 24/7. We are here for you," adds Baldwin.

For anyone who needs to contact the shelter, the hotline number is 850-681-2111.

Baldwin says for those who feel staying at home is the best thing, you can call the number anyway and someone will help you work out a temporary safety plan.