On group night at the Shelter, we have anywhere from 8-20 kids, ages 1-16 to supervise while the women are taking part in their groups. Summer numbers are usually lower. Holidays, especially Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine's Day, are very busy. We often have close to 30 kids.
Last group night was an anomaly for summertime. We started out with 25 kids (resident and "outside"), aged 1-13. We had five adult volunteers including me so it was doable, though hard because we had five or six kids under the age of three.
Holidays are typically times when domestic violence referrals peak. Stress is higher, feelings run stronger because of past holiday experiences and traditions, and there is less free time to regroup.
Summer, too can be stressful in that the kids are home more, heat can make tempers short, and partners may argue about how to spend vacation time or money. Yet I don't remember this many children coming to group the past four summers I've volunteered.
Which leaves me wondering if the higher number of kids we've had lately is a fluke or a trend.
Unemployment is very high. Perhaps this is leading to more stress and more problems in the home.
I can only hope it's a fluke. A fluke would not necessarily mean a trend toward more domestic violence in general. More women needing group support for increased abuse and danger. More children living in fear and forced to take on parental roles.
Domestic violence doesn't always fit neatly into statistics, theories, and trends.
Its perpetrators are unpredictable and don't follow the rules.
So we do the best we can for these precious and often hurting children.
Too bad the perpetrators don't.