Healthy Lifestyle

Football and Fights: Why Domestic Violence Reports Jump at Certain Times of the Year

Published: Oct. 29, 2020

Tackling the Connection

Studies show that reports of domestic violence tend to increase during football season, especially when the home team is expected to win but doesn’t. Some research indicates as much as a 10% jump in reports of domestic violence following those types of losses. And yet, cases go unreported.

While the combination of alcohol, heightened emotions and lack of control over an outcome can certainly influence someone’s actions, football, alone, doesn’t make someone violent. A tough loss, however, can present a prime opportunity for a violent culmination of certain patterns of behavior.

Patterns that should serve as red flags include:

  • Name-calling or insulting
  • Control over finances and activities
  • Threatening words or actions
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Victim blaming
  • Jealousy
  • Unfounded accusations
  • Anger or irritability with drug or alcohol use

Add in the stress of a pandemic with more time spent at home, and these red flags could very well become the norm if they're not already.

Domestic violence usually starts subtly – often with one or two patterns – and intensifies over time. Many victims don’t realize they’re in a toxic relationship. Some even justify violent activity with excuses for why their partner acts out. And it should be noted: One of the most serious forms of violent activity is strangulation, which is tied to alarming short- and long-term physiological statistics.

It's estimated that after the first act of strangulation, the odds of homicide increase by 750%. The misconception is that a perpetrator occludes a person’s airway when, in fact, it takes much less pressure to occlude the carotid artery and jugular vein, which would prevent oxygen from getting to the brain. If you or someone you know is strangled in a domestic dispute, we highly encourage medical care. Get familiar with the signs and symptoms of strangulation.

High-Stress = Higher Rates

Much like football season, holidays, too, are associated with higher numbers of domestic violence reports.

Holidays can be stressful. Money is tight, calendars are full and expectations are at an all-time high. Reports of partner violence typically jump more than 20% on these major holidays:

  • Thanksgiving
  • New Year’s Eve
  • Memorial Day
  • Fourth of July

Christmas isn’t one of the holidays that sees an uptick in abuse reports. Experts suggest that could be due to a number of reasons, such as:

  • Couples trying to keep up appearances or “save face” in front of family and friends
  • The survivor’s inability to make a report without being caught
  • The survivor’s uncertainty of whom to call on such a big holiday

While Christmas Eve and Day remain quieter than other holidays, the entire month of December – which is stressful for many – tends to trend upward in domestic violence calls.

Pregnancy and periods of financial hardship – something many are struggling with right now – are also high-stress times linked to increased domestic violence.

Again, there’s no excuse for violence. But if research tells us anything, it’s that risk factors for perpetration – such as aggressive behavior, impulsiveness, heavy drug and alcohol use, and desire for power and control, especially when so many feel out of control – can escalate in the presence of stress.

The Takeaway

Make no mistake: Domestic violence happens all year round. Methodist Health System sees and treats just under 100 survivors a year. But being aware of statistically high-volume months or seasons can be lifesaving for yourself or someone you know.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, call:

Methodist Hospital and Methodist Women’s Hospital have a team of specially trained nurses who care for victims of domestic violence. They provide a medical-forensic exam to evaluate and document injuries, and they also provide community resources as well as follow-up medical recommendations.

And if you’re concerned about a loved one’s safety, reach out! Simply being a steadfast friend is key to a survivor’s healing process.

Remember: Leaving a violent relationship takes determination and careful planning. Studies show that leaving is the most dangerous and lethal time for survivors.

Ask your loved one what they need and reassure them that you are there to help. You can get creative in the ways and times you offer help. In a time full of fear and anxiety, you can be their safe haven. Because while staying home to watch football may be one way people are helping curb the spread of COVID-19, it's likely anything but safe for those in an abusive relationship.

More Resources

About the Author

Jen Tran, RN, SANE, Methodist SANE/SART Program coordinator, says she is inspired every day by the passion and tirelessness of her fellow Methodist SANE nurses. She is also inspired by the community and the way everyone pulls together to try to put an end to sexual assault and domestic violence. 

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