TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Experts say the pressures of the holidays can intensify abuse. The Spring of Tampa Bay said this is on top of the pandemic, which empowered abusers to become more violent.

It’s not a bright and merry season for everyone.

“Behind closed doors your partner is unsafe, unsafe to you, violent to you and violent to your kids – but you’re being told by everyone to be happy – it is incredibly hard and incredibly isolating for survivors during the holidays,” Spring of Tampa Bay President Mindy Murphy said.

The Spring is located in Hillsborough County and provides safe spaces and services to survivors and their kids. It’s part of a network of 41 certified domestic violence centers across the state of Florida.

“The goal of the 41 centers is to make sure the entire state is blanketed with free supportive services for survivors of domestic violence both residential services and non-residential services,” said Murphy.

The organization offers education for survivors and families, safety planning for victims, as well as programs to assist survivors including housing.

”We are here to keep domestic violence survivor safe and let them know they’re not alone,” said Murphy.

Rosa Contreras, the director of outreach services, said it’s important to note that just because we don’t hear about cases of domestic violence it doesn’t mean that it’s not happening.

“You feel very alone when you’re suffering violence because it’s happening behind closed doors,” said Contreras. “Victims feel they are truly alone, but I want to say to them right now for them to remember although the violence is happening when you were alone but you’re not alone forever. There’s places like that and professionals that really care.”

When the pandemic hit and isolation began, it became a dangerous time for survivors. Murphy said abusers became emboldened.

“Really what we saw as a result of that was an escalation a significant increase over 20% increase in the use of weapons, guns and weapons of opportunity.”

In Hillsborough County alone, Murphy said more than 6,500 injunction for protection petitions are filed by survivors each year. Most cases are not reported making the need for resources even greater.

The Spring of Tampa Bay is looking for:

  • Monetary donations
  • Hygiene products (toothpaste, shaving cream and razors)
  • New clothing and shoes for women and kids
  • New bedding, towels, pillows

The donation center is located at 209 North Willow Avenue and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you are a survivor of domestic violence and need immediate help you can call or text the 24-hour crisis hotline (813) 247-SAFE.