BFTH Part I: Frustrations with Family, Flocks and Fellowship

Atieno Adongo is a development intern at STSM. She also is Master’s student at the Arnold School of Public Health at USC.

This month, I am writing a blog series called “Breaks from the Holidays” (BFTH). The goal of this series is take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday scene, and delve into conversations surrounding sexual assault. Below is Part I: Frustrations with Family, Flocks and Fellowship.

The holiday season comes with a bag of mixed emotions. While we are glad to see our family and friends, there can be some awkward familial tension present. With everyone being out and about with shopping and festivity fun, comes long lines at the store, slow traffic and less personal space. Let’s not forget the religious observances: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day, Pancha Ganapati…the list goes on and on. While the presents and religious food are great, all-night prayer meetings on Christmas Eve are not (at least for me).

These aspects of the holidays may be happy moments or minor frustrations for us. Yet these situations can be major triggers for survivors of sexual assault and abuse. A blog post for BARCC (Boston Area Rape Crisis Center) mentions nine reasons why many survivors have a difficult time during this time of year. Listed below are three of these reasons.

First, a survivor’s assault that was perpetrated by a family member or family friend may be a secret or known but not acknowledged by other family members. Hence, the survivor must either “return home and celebrate the holidays with the perpetrator and people who either don’t know or were hostile towards the report or stay away and miss being with their family.”

Furthermore, a survivor may be anxious around large crowds and strangers. No doubt, much more foot traffic will be present due to shopping, festivals, parades and travel plans. Some of this interaction can be mandatory such as going to the airport to travel long distances or buying food at the grocery store.

Lastly, a survivor may have lost faith in or feel betrayed by his/her religion after the assault. Therefore, engaging in religious observances, attending religious institutions and seeing religious messages frequently during this time of year can be frustrating as well.

Personally, I found this blog list interesting because I had never thought an assault would have a negative effect on one’s view of the holiday season. We sometimes cannot see why a person acts the way s/he does. If you notice that someone is frustrated/irate/sad/etc. this month, remember to be patient and give them the benefit of the doubt. Remember to be aware of how your past is influencing how you respond to situations as well.

References

Lantz, S. (2014, November 16). Survivors and the Holidays. Retrieved December 8, 2014, from http://barcc.org/blog/details/survivors-and-the-holidays