'Cabin Fever' in Cold Weather Can Cause Uptick in Domestic Violence, Experts Say

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Rita Smith, executive director of the Denver-based National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said the weather makes these incidents a "crime of access."

"It's more connected to the fact that people are home more," she said. "If the weather is really great, and people are out and about, working and going to school and not together, it is possible to reduce the violence."

"When there is an abusive person in the family, and they are forced to be together for longer periods of time, there is an increased potential for violence," said Smith, who advises families with an abusive member to always keep an "escape bag" on hand that might have a set of car keys, important records and documents.

"You also might want to have warm clothing because if you have to bust out of the house at the last minute, you want to make sure you don't freeze to death," she said.

Bucqueroux, who is the former executive director of the Michigan Victim Alliance, also advises that pet abuse can be a problem in bad weather. "Abusers are also the ones who kick the dog," she said.

More community resources, including on-the-ground policing and neighbors helping neighbors can help those in need during a weather emergency, she said.

"There are more incidents of extreme weather and we have to have the capacity to deal with these issues of outreach," she said. Cabin fever "is under-reported. It matters because people die when they don't know where to turn, and the odds go up in a natural disaster, just at the time when stress levels peak."

For help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233).

Or contact RAINN's National Sexual Assault Hotline.

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