According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the number of hotline calls for help drops an average of 50 percent on holidays, before increasing again by 5 percent in the first two weeks of January. Reidsville-based Help, Incorporated said it sees similar trends in the number of domestic violence victims who seek services at its shelters.
Feikema said, "Unfortunately, there is so much happening during the holidays, so many stresses, that it can be a very unhappy time for many people, yet you often have to go along with the notion that you're having a good time and that it's happy."
Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page said different factors, including alcohol consumption, family togetherness, substance abuse and financial strains attribute to the domestic violence increase.
Help, Incorporated has been working in conjunction with the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office to increase awareness about its domestic violence relief services in the county. Sheriff Page and Help, Incorporated executive director Angie Boles have launched a billboard campaign across the county, encouraging anyone to call the 24/7 hotline number for help.
Page said his office pushes the law's zero-tolerance policy toward domestic violence. He said, "Even today, we still have people that die in North Carolina, that die in Rockingham County, due to domestic violence-related situations."
Yvonne Freeman, a domestic violence survivor from Eden, attests to the life-changing assistance Help, Incorporated can provide once victims are ready to seek permanent relief. She left and returned to her ex-husband six times before leaving him for good.
"The last relationship I was in was extreme abuse to the point I nearly lost my life. I knew I needed to get some help--that something was wrong with me--so I went to Help, Incorporated. The first time I left my abuser, I wasn't ready to leave then. It's a cycle. If you're not ready, you're not going to leave, no matter what anyone tells you."
Freeman said each time she returned to her abusive husband, his violence would escalate, and he would hurt her in front of her then-teenage daughter, Martha Mitchell.
Mitchell said, "I called 911 several times, but they got so used to us calling that they knew what was going to happen every time, (and) they would take their time to get out there."
But, Freeman said Help, Incorporated never became immune to her recurring cries for help. She said, "They're professional people at Help, Incorporated. They know what you're going through. Each time I would go to their door, they would tell me, 'You're somebody. You're somebody special. You don't deserve to be abused.' Each time, I grew a little. Finally, I started believing I was someone. I didn't deserve this kind of treatment, and I got out."
Relief agencies in the Piedmont Triad with 24-hour hotline numbers include:
Help, Incorporated (based in Reidsville) - 336-342-3332
Family Services (based in Winston-Salem) - 336-723-8125
National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-7233