December 21, 2016

A Black and Blue Christmas

I will never forget when Valerie showed up at Everett Gospel Mission. A cab dropped her off on Christmas Day. Her eyes were swollen almost shut. She wore ill-fitting clothes that had been fished out of the hospital lost and found and was covered in bruises and bandages. I couldn’t help but rush to her side with concern. To this day, I am amazed that she is alive.

If you haven’t heard her story, she was living a quiet retired life when her stepdaughter beat her up in a drunken rage on Christmas Eve. Valerie’s husband never came to her aid.

She was taken away by ambulance and never returned home again.

“It’s not safe for me there,” she said.

Valerie is an example of how domestic violence can happen around the holidays. Families get together, sometimes tensions run high, personalities are changed by alcohol, then pile on the pressure to spend money on gifts and to prepare elaborate meals. If domestic violence is already a problem, the holidays can be a terrifying, stressful time for the victims, who try to hold everything together the best they can.

But for other families, Christmas can be a breaking point. Long held resentments or jealousy or anger have their way. And what should be a happy occasion becomes the end of a marriage. The end of feeling safe in your home. The end of a peaceful, contented life.

The beginning of homelessness.

No one knows exactly how often it happens.

But it happened to Valerie, and that’s enough.

Sylvia Anderson