No Home for the Holidays for Survivors of Childhood Abuse

childhood abuse survivor sitting next to a christmas tree

For many survivors of childhood abuse and sexual violence, the holidays can be a tough time of year. Where many advertisements insist that the season should be filled with cheer, survivors often find themselves sinking deeper into anxiety and depression, withdrawing from others, or returning to old coping habits like substance abuse or gambling. This can happen for a variety of reasons.

Lonely and Dangerous Time.

Many childhood abuse survivors found the holidays a lonely and dangerous time when younger. Maybe the break from school meant that you spent more time with your abuser without an escape to a caring teacher or supportive friends. This could be a time of heightened fear and anxiety as your abusers drank more often and became more volatile, causing more frequent or more violent abuse. Arguments between parents or caregivers might increase, causing more stress and heartache for you.

Maybe you were safe as long as extended family members were around, but once you were left alone with your abuser, the pressures of the day exploded out, causing caregivers to take out their anger on each other or on you and your siblings. Perhaps the brunt of the anger fell upon your shoulders.

As a victim of child abuse and neglect, you probably tried your best to stay quiet and be on your best behaviour while at home, or tried to protect yourself and your siblings, but for many, no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t escape the wrath of your parents or other abusive family members.

For children in unloving, neglectful, or discriminatory homes or sleep-away schools, the holidays were a lonely time, often spent on the outside looking in at warm, loving, caring homes and celebrations. Holidays for many survivors were a dread inducing mix of lonely and dangerous. As a survivor of childhood abuse and neglect, you were trapped in that traumatic place with no escape.

Although you may have tried to forget those times, or move past them, or heal from them, the emotions from these times may be impossible to avoid as more reminders of the holiday season come up more often.

The smell of a fireplace, the sight of a wreath or garland, Hanukkah decorations, hearing a specific song or hymn, or other reminders of the season may triggers memories and send you spiralling back down the hole of despair with feelings of depression and anxiety. Add to that the darkness and the lack of sun in this season and this could spell out disaster for survivors.

While these are normal feelings for survivors to have, they are a heavy burden to bear.

Support During the Holidays.

Even though the holidays can be difficult, there is hope that you can get through them. There are ways to survive the holidays so you can come out and continue living and building a good life on the other side.

Having support is crucial in this time. You may have found a few friends, a good co- worker, or have some family members that have supported you all along. Turning to these people at this time and asking for support is critical to ensuring you remember that you are wanted and needed here, and that the holidays do not need to be a time of deep darkness that you must suffer alone.

You Are Not Alone.

If you feel that you do not have anyone to rely on, there are still options available to you. You can join a support group, such as ones provided by The Gatehouse, your local Sexual Assault Service Centre, or Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centres. There are many people out there willing and ready to help you.

You must also consider the power inside you. Although the childhood abuse occurred when you were young and had little power, as an adult, you now hold the power to seek justice for yourself. There are legal options that may allow you to sue your abuser or the institution that failed to keep you safe. These options could allow you to take those people to task and care for that little abused child in a way that no one did for you when you were younger.

It’s important to know you are not alone. If you or a loved one are struggling this holiday season, our sexual abuse lawyers team at Jellinek Ellis Gluckstein Lawyers encourage you to access supports. There is hope that you will get through this season and work towards a better, brighter future.


Subscribe to our Newsletter

Sign me up