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Holidays Can Bring Out the Worst in Some: Avoiding Domestic Violence

December 16, 2009

LANSING, Mich. - Holidays can be stressful times for families, particularly when they include more alcohol consumption, more financial pressure and more time in close contact with relatives. During this time of year, county prosecutors say the numbers of incidents and calls to domestic violence hotlines typically increase.

Members of the National Association of Social Workers insist that, regardless of the season's pressures, there is no reason for a family situation to escalate into violence. No matter what the circumstances, says Ericka Schmittdiel, advocacy coordinator for Michigan State University's Safe Place and Care Program, neither the abuser nor the victim can justify physical, emotional or financial abuse.

"When it comes down to it, there is no excuse for putting your hands on your partner or belittling your partner. You know, I don't want to discount the stress that we're all feeling this time of year – but again, that's an excuse."

Many times, Schmittdiel explains, abusers restrict their violence to their home setting, showing a different side in public. She says family members can help by noticing recurring injuries, behavior changes in children, or whether loved ones appear to be isolated, perhaps kept from gatherings with friends and relatives.

For victims, she adds, it is important to have a plan in place, similar to a fire drill.

"Maybe the victim is going to have her cell phone with her at all times and she can call 9-1-1 easily. Or maybe she's going to avoid a fight in the kitchen, where there are knives; she's going to try to go to the living room, and be near the front door. Maybe she's going to teach the kids to call 9-1-1 if things get bad."

Schmittdiel says children can overcome the effects of domestic violence if they have a strong relationship with the non-violent parent. And in every community, she says, resources for leaving an abusive partner are available.

Amy Miller/Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MI