Domestic violence reports increase during winter months - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Domestic violence reports increase during winter months

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Now that the holidays are over, the beginning of the New Year can mean anxiety, anger and trouble for many people.

Domestic violence experts say they receive more calls from November through early January than any other time of the year. Tax returns, lay-offs, and other factors can stress many people out. Families gather during the holiday and winter, and with the cold weather, many are forced to stay indoors. This can cause aggression and fights.

Lindsey Reis is assistant director at Hope Harbour, a domestic violence crisis center in the Chattahoochee Valley area. "The bills are coming in, the holidays are over, and it's back to real life," she says. "Anytime there is cold weather, we receive an increased amount of calls."

Reis explains that cold weather does not cause domestic violence. However, the cold weather can keep people from going outside. Families may be forced to talk about sensitive issues, and this can lead to domestic violence.

Hope Harbour received 1,082 crisis calls in 2013. In November and December of last year, 164 crisis calls were made, and they sheltered 212 women and 187 children at their facility in Columbus, Ga.

"Last year in Muscogee County, there were over 4,000 family violence reports," Reis says. "Those reports were made, and looked over, by the police. Furthermore, less than half of the domestic violence issues are actually reported. So, if we take the number and triple it, that might be the true number of domestic violence cases just in Muscogee County.

The Georgia Commission on Family Violence shared their domestic violence fatality annual reports from 2012 on their website. The reports show that outside of the metro Atlanta area, Muscogee is one of the top counties for family violence murders in the state of Georgia.

"Between 2011 and 2012, we served 42 percent more than we did the year before," Reis explains. "By August of 2013, Hope Harbour had already seen, and sheltered more than we did for people in 2012. So the number of definitely increasing."

Kyle Bair with Sexual Assault Support Center in Columbus says that they also receives a high number of calls during winter months.

"Sometimes the holidays are busy for us," Bair explains. "The violence level seems to increase and the amount of people reporting seems to increase, too.  Maybe it is because people are drinking more during the holiday or families are gathering, but we see many victims in winter."

Reis says victims of family violence need to have an escape plan in case there is an emergency.

"Hide a bag at a friend's house, or a trusted person's house," Reis advises. "You should put your birth certificate, driver's license, check account number, spare set of keys and clothes in that bag. Many women come to our shelter in middle of the night without any of those things. Usually the victims come without shoes or in their pajamas, so you should have those things prepared."

Victims of domestic violence can call Hope Harbour at 706-324-3850 or visit their website at http://www.hopeharbour.org/.  Their hotlines are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Victims can also reach the Sexual Assault Support Center Sexual Assault center at 706-221-1033 or visit their website at http://www.sexualassaultsupportcenter.com/.

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