CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Domestic violence victims' advocates are preparing to light two more candles this week after a murder-suicide in Charlotte left a mother and grandmother dead, and a 12-year-old girl fighting for her life.
"It never fails to make your stomach drop or, you know, just literally make me feel nauseated," says Elyse Hamilton-Childres, the chair of the Domestic Violence Advocacy Council.
Statistics show more than 70 people have lost their lives in North Carolina this year due to domestic violence. Twelve of those cases are in Charlotte, not including the two from over the weekend.
"We have a lot of names to remember this year. it's truly devastating," Hamilton-Childres says.
Each year, the advocacy council holds a memorial tree lighting ceremony in December to honor the victims. This year's tree will have more names than it has had in several years.
"I hope people will hear those names and think about those individuals and not let those people be lost in vain," Hamilton-Childres says.
The month of December can often be a higher-risk time for families in abusive situations, experts caution.
"I think there are a lot of people who have a lot of emotions around the holidays," said Kelsey Queen, an attorney at the Safe Alliance.
Financial problems, alcohol use, depression, and family gatherings all increase for a potentially deadly mix, she says.
"There's a lot of pressure around the holidays and everything being perfect so I think that definitely causes a rise in tension that could affect peoples' behaviors for sure," Queen said.
However, while the risk may increase at certain time periods, Hamilton--Childres says it's important to remember abuse happens year round.
"It just makes me feel pain for anybody who may have been touched by this," she says. "We need to break the cycle."