COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The holidays are often known as a time for families to gather together. However, domestic violence experts explain that holiday season can turn brutal for some families.
Diane Hett, executive director of Hope Harbour in Columbus, said stress and anger build up in holiday seasons.
"Domestic violence may increase over the holidays, but it is a cycle," Hett explained. "It's not a one-time thing. It may progress during the holiday as anger and stressors build. It's a huge issue in our area. Last year, Columbus police reported 4,200 domestic violence incidents. Also, only one out of five cities that is ever going to report."
"It's also the time of the year when the number of children who experience domestic violence are at the highest," added Nicole Lee, chairman of the Domestic Violence Roundtable events.
Nicole Lee, 36, suffered domestic violence from her ex-lover and the father of her three children when Nicole was only 14 years old. Nicole lived in New York when she met him, but they never married for the eight years they were together.
She left the man for good when she turned 22 years old. However, Nicole said leaving him was not easy. The couple had their first child when Nicole was only 18 years old, and Nicole said she always found a reason to return back to him.
"I was 14 when I got into a relationship with him," Nicole said. "He did not seem like a dangerous person, and he did not seem like he would cause me any harm. You think you know what relationships are, you think you know how to make it work. But I was wrong."
Nicole said she grew up in a violate environment even before she met her ex-partner. She was sexually abused as a child, and Nicole said she found it hard to leave the man.
"I was choked, I was rolled up in mattresses, I was locked out of my home, and my child was taken from me," Nicole tearfully recalled. "I kept going back to him. It was embarrassing to see my friends and family notice the bruises… but I could not leave him."
It was not until her son, who was 10 years old, induced Nicole to leave her violent man.
"It took me 900 miles to not go back to him," Nicole said. "I came to Americus, Ga. I do not see or talk to him anymore. Every testimony starts with a test. I don't know why I was tested in the way that I was, but my story is for others to hear. I am a living example, and the experience allowed me to encourage other victims."
Nicole comes up to Columbus every month from Americus to host the domestic violence roundtable sessions. She brings in a speaker to educate the attendees. Nicole also helps children who have suffered physical as well as emotional domestic violence.
Hope Harbour has a crisis line that people can call anytime they need to. The calls are answered 24 hours a day. 706-323-4850 is the crisis line.