HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Many say "it's the most wonderful time of the year."
For the Hattiesburg Police Department's Victim's Services Unit, it can also be one of the busiest.
Lt. Latosha Myers-Mitchell, who leads the unit, said the police department tends to respond to an increase in domestic-violence-related crimes during the holiday season.
"Violence is never okay, not during the holidays or any other time," said Myers-Mitchell.
Myers-Mitchell said factors surrounding the holidays and pressure to have a joyful season can amplify tense situation. Things like stress, depression, financial anxiety or alcohol can play a role in any conflict.
"The holidays are supposed to be happy times, but sometimes it's not," Myers-Mitchell said.
Lawanda Spann works at the Hattiesburg Police Department. She remembers those painful holiday seasons after surviving not one, but two violent relationships.
"When you are around people and they are happy, you don't want to spoil that occasion. You don't want to say this is what happening to me," Spann said. "You are on a shell, everyone is rejoicing around you and you are dying inside, because you are secretly being abused."
Spann now uses her voice and experience to help others who may be in a serious situation.
"It doesn't matter what time of the year it is, we have to speak out and let these things be known," Spann said.
Myers-Mitchell suggested trying to de-escalate a tense or stressful situation, whether it be a fight over paying for presents or drinking too much at a holiday party.
"Learn how to stop, count to ten, walk away," Myers-Mitchell said. "Just the let the situation go for a minute, cool down."
But, Myers-Mitchell said that may not be enough and a call to the Hattiesburg Police Department would be necessary.
"We know that it's the holiday season and you may not want to see your loved one incarcerated, but that's what they might need to keep you safe," she said.
For Spann, she has one strong message for any season, get out.
"You may say it's getting close to Christmas and I'm not going to go right now," Spann said. "I had a thing about I'll go later, I'll try later. But, later may have been too late for me.
If you, or know a loved one, who is in a violent relationship, contact the city's Domestic Violence Unit through the Hattiesburg Police Department at (601) 544-7900.