Staying Safe for the Holidays

Staying Safe - Angry Person w/ Text

How to Handle Being Around Abusive People

by Emily Dreher, Unspoken Voices Contributor

The holiday season is rife with stress for most people, and survivors have an extra burden. They may have to travel with abusive partners or visit family or parties where abusers will be present.

Unfortunately, survivors may not be able to avoid those situations or people, but there are ways to plan ahead and cope.

This is not an exhaustive list, and some items on it might not be useful or safe for all situations. Safety is top priority. The key is to plan ahead and share that info with supportive, trustworthy people. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or see their holiday safety tips for planning, emergency situations and more.

If you’re traveling with an abusive partner, make and keep copies of vital travel records and identification. On a device your partner won’t see, look up resources around stops and destinations for things like emergency numbers, shelters and hospitals.

Communicate with someone outside the situation you can trust. Maybe that means keeping them updated frequently, or making code words to let them know what’s going on and if they need to call you or 911.


Find ways to spend time with other people alone and/or away from your abuser. This could look like asking if there are other places you can stay or sleep. A great cover is friendly activities to be with other people such as gift shopping, chores, or running errands.

Take care of yourself. Do your best to fulfill physical needs for sleep, food and water. Try to make space for an emotional refuge, which could be playing your favorite music, focusing on your breathing or other self-soothing activities.

And lastly, if you have the means to do so and it’s safe, stay in, make your own holiday with friends, and skip the ordeal altogether. While you may feel obligated to be with family, for example, you also have to consider whether that’s ultimately best for your well-being. You can choose to spend time with people you care about who treat you well.