The National Domestic Violence Hotline

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

The Hotline

DV and HIV: Unique Challenges for HIV-Positive Survivors of Abuse (Friday, April 12th 2019)

by Adam R., a Hotline advocate 

When we think about who domestic violence affects, it can be very easy to jump to specific ideas that society has taught us- ideas that say the only survivors of abuse are women who are assaulted by their boyfriends or husbands. 

At The Hotline, we know that abuse can affect everyone, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, class, race, ability, immigration status, etc. These different identities don’t shield people from abuse, but instead impact their ability to access needed support and resources. Barriers can exist in the form of stigma, a lack of resources, accessibility concerns, or other obstacles, and they ultimately contribute to the isolation and oppression of survivors everywhere.  

Far too often, due to prejudicial beliefs or misunderstandings, we see marginalized populations framed as perpetrators of violence, vilifying and “othering” them. These negative beliefs can affect immigrantsLGBTQ peoplepeople living with mental illness, sex workers, and many other identities. While anyone is capable of committing abuse, these populations are frequently targets of increased rates of violence–not perpetrators of it. One population that often faces these added challenges, and one that is often overlooked, is people living with HIV (PLHIV). 

Abuse comes in many different forms, and as such, it can affect people who are HIV-positive in many different ways. Through active discrimination, fear of discrimination, criminalization, societal stigma, and a lack of legal protections for people living with HIV, there can be a multitude of unique ways abusive partners can use their power and control to isolate and manipulate survivors who are HIV-positive. This could look like: 

  • Saying that a survivor is “unlovable” or “dirty” because of their status, or that they’ll never find another partner 
  • Saying that a survivor is promiscuous or “slutty” because of their HIV status 
  • Isolating a survivor on the basis that they are a threat of exposure to others 
  • Threatening to share/sharing a survivor’s HIV status with their family or community, putting them at risk of discrimination and isolation 
  • Threatening to share/sharing a survivor’s HIV status with their landlord, potentially putting them at risk of eviction, or from acquiring housing 
  • Threatening to use a survivor’s HIV-status against them in a custody dispute 
  • Not allowing a survivor to seek necessary medical care 
  • Stealing or destroying the medications a survivor needs to stay healthy 
  • Threatening to share/sharing a survivor’s HIV-status with a current or future employer, potentially getting them fired or preventing them from getting a job 
  • Forcing a survivor to pay for new medication or treatments by stealing or destroying their current supply 
  • Sabotaging or refusing to use safer sex methods a survivor wants to use 
  • Sharing a survivor’s HIV-status online 
  • Threatening to take wrongful legal action against a survivor who is HIV-positive, and more. 

These are just some examples of the many ways an abuser can use a survivor’s HIV status to control their emotional, physical, financial, sexual, or digital decisions.  
One distinct way people living with HIV are made especially vulnerable to abuse is through state and federal legislation criminalizing a variety of behaviors related to their HIV status. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 25 states have laws criminalizing one or more behaviors that pose a low or negligible risk for transmission. Many laws also don’t take into account whether or not a person living with HIV has an undetectable viral load, which means that there are so few copies of the virus in their body that transmission is effectively impossible. If an abusive partner were to wrongly exploit these laws, a survivor would be put in an incredibly vulnerable position, which is why resources can be pivotal in such situations.  
If you have been wrongly charged or convicted of a crime where a history of abuse is relevant to your case, the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women (which serves people of all genders) could help. 
If you are HIV-positive and would like to get care or treatment, there is help available for you. You can find providers near you using the Health Resources and Services Administration’s website, as well as a list of statewide HIV/AIDS hotlines to access further resources. If you think you’ve been discriminated against at work, while getting medical care, or while seeking housing because of your HIV status, it may be helpful to learn more about your legal rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 
If you are unsure of your HIV-status, one way to plan for your safety is to get tested at a location near you. If you are HIV-negative and worry that you are at risk of contracting HIV, one resource that could be worth exploring is pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication taken daily to dramatically reduce the risk of transmission. If you need assistance finding a provider, or paying for PrEP, there are a variety of resources to help you do so. If you live in a rural community, or are unable to access healthcare providers, in some states you can also get PrEP by mail. If you believe you’ve been exposed to HIV within the last 72 hours, one way to protect yourself from contracting the virus is by taking post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), a medication regimen designed to significantly decrease that risk. 

If you are a minor and have concerns about getting tested, whether that’s regarding confidentiality/parental notification, cost, or something else, Title X may offer free or low-cost services via clinics that don’t require parental consent. Title X clinics also offer birth control, and can be a good option for people who are undocumented. To get tested through Title X, you’ll need to find a Title X clinic near you, and ask for “confidential STI testing through Title X.” If you’re a minor and would like to explore PrEP, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved PrEP for use by adolescents

Here at The Hotline, our advocates are not medical professionals, so before starting any new medical treatments, or if you have specific questions related to your health, we recommend speaking to a healthcare professional. If you have immediate questions about your sexual or reproductive health, some of your options include: chatting or texting with a professional health educatorlearning more about the potential risk of contracting a sexually-transmitted infection (also known as an STD) or getting pregnant from specific sex acts, or finding an affordable health center near you that can answer your questions. 

If you are HIV or STI positive, know that this status doesn’t define you, and in no way takes away from your worth or value as a human being. It also doesn’t mean that you deserve to experience anything less than a respectful, healthy relationship. No one deserves to be abused, despite what society or anyone else may tell you. If you have concerns about the health of your relationship, our hotline advocates are available 24/7. Please don’t hesitate to contact us by chat, or by phone at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE). 

The post DV and HIV: Unique Challenges for HIV-Positive Survivors of Abuse appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Support for bipartisan Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2019 (Thursday, March 7th 2019)

“We are thankful to Rep. Karen Bass and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick for prioritizing the urgent needs of survivors with the introduction of a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization. This legislation includes critical enhancements that extend protections to victims no matter their race, legal status or sexual orientation. It sends the important message that no victim should be excluded from receiving critical resources that will help them live a life free of abuse.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline was created 24 years ago through the passage of VAWA. Since then, The Hotline and it’s education and prevention project for youth, loveisrespect, have served more than 4.8 million survivors of domestic violence and dating violence through text, chat, and phone services. From 2017 to 2018, the Hotline has seen a 40% increase in the number of people reaching out for support. Every day all day, our highly trained advocates empower victims with safety planning, crisis intervention, compassionate support, and resources funded by VAWA, such as housing, legal assistance, counseling, and other services.

We applaud members of Congress on their support of the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2019”.

–       Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of The National Domestic Violence Hotline and loveisrespect

The post Support for bipartisan Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2019 appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Forgiveness (Friday, March 1st 2019)

by Aris, a Hotline advocate 

Forgiveness can be difficult, and yet many people manage to do this every day with friends, family and coworkers. The path to forgiveness typically involves a wrongdoing, perhaps an apology, and some form of accountability or behavioral change. After this, the person who has been wronged decides that moving forward and “letting it go” is in everyone’s best interest, thereby forgiving the initial transgression. 

Well, what about forgiving abuse? Usually the script sounds nothing like what is described above, so those same steps cannot be followed. When abuse takes place, the abusive person steps outside of the rules of civility in order to coerce, humiliate, physically harm, and sometimes even kill a victim. This level of wrongdoing can be so damaging and life-altering that abuse can seem unforgivable. While it is true that abuse is never okay or justifiable, it is possible to forgive abuse.  

With all of that said, a survivor is not going to be in a place to forgive abuse if they are still in danger. If the risk of harm is a concern for you or your family, consider making a safety plan first; once you’re safe and ready to work on healing, you can explore forgiveness. If you need help or support while developing a safety plan, reach out to one of our advocates via phone or online chat.  

Ok, you’re safe… now what? 

The idea of forgiving someone who has abused you might seem daunting at first. While many people who have been in an abusive relationship are not ready to work on forgiving, learning about what forgiveness means and laying some groundwork could still be helpful and perhaps eventually lead to it feeling more doable. Try not to pressure yourself to hurrying this process; finding your own authentic pace with this is what will lead you there.  

Why should I consider forgiveness? 

That’s a valid question, and the answer lies in the research. Studies have shown that forgiveness can result in huge health benefits like reducing the risk of heart attack, improving cholesterol levels, increasing quality of sleep, reducing pain, lowering blood pressure, and reducing levels of anxiety, depression and stress. With that in mind, even if you aren’t ready for this yet, the mental and physical health benefits alone make forgiveness worth considering.  

Won’t forgiveness let the abuser off the hook?   

The short answer is, no. An abuser will have to deal with the ramifications of their actions whether you forgive them or not. Forgiveness is not declaring that what has happened to you is ok, nor does it mean that the abuse was your fault. It is also doesn’t involve an apology from the abuser that you can then forgive. Forgiveness is the personal process of deciding to not continue to hold on to your anger, resentment, and thoughts of revenge. Letting go of the anger does not change the fact that the abusive behaviors were wrong, but rather, it can create an enormous positive shift for you, mentally and emotionally. Consider allowing these two concepts to exist at the same time: the abuse was wrong, unfair, and not something you deserved, AND you have the power to forgive, allowing yourself to prioritize your healing. As you’ll read below, it is not recommended that you discuss or confront your ex abusive partner with your decision to forgive, which means that they will not know that you’re forgiving them; this leaves them largely unaffected by the forgiveness.  

Does forgiveness mean I have to see the abuser or reconcile with them? 

No, it does not. Since forgiveness is a personal journey, it does not involve showing up at someone’s doorstep and letting them know they are forgiven. In situations that do not involve abuse, it’s totally reasonable and safe to discuss forgiveness in person. When abuse is involved, though, a face-to-face reconciliation is likely NOT safe, would very likely provide no benefit, and may result in the abuser trying to manipulate the situation for their gain. This process is done on your own (or perhaps with help from your counselor) and does not require a conversation with the person who abused you. Forgiveness is a situation in which you release the abuser’s control by yourself.  

In a non-abusive situation, the hope is that the person who wronged you sees the error of their ways, apologizes, and changes for the better. Many healthy people can do this. However, an abusive person is unhealthy and uninterested in fairness or equality. This means that your abusive ex-partner is completely broke of the currency that you would like to be paid back in. They are, in a sense, morally bankrupt and unable to refund you. An abusive person is not someone who accesses empathy in their relationship, and due to this lack of empathy, it is unrealistic to expect that they can “pay you back” in a way that would be meaningful to you. Part of the journey towards forgiveness is facing what is realistic and accepting that reality, which then allows you to move forward.  

What does the forgiveness process look like  

The first steps in this process involve finding a safe place and some time to process anger and blame.  These crucial steps are necessary for healing after abuse. Some abuse survivors find safety, do some processing, and never move on much after that.  However, others may find a turning point after this processing period and begin seeking the next positive outcome. If you have reached these milestones and have begun seeking understanding, you might be ready to start the forgiveness process. Below is a loose framework that you might use. Find where you currently are in this sequence, then take a look at the steps that come afterward. 

  • Procure safety (or return later if not safe)  
  • Process acute emotional and physical pain 
  • If necessary, process anger 
  • Process blame (pro-tip: abuse is the abuser’s fault)  
  • Seek understanding 
  • Become realistic  
  • Ask yourself what it would take 
  • Open yourself up to the idea  
  • Consider seeking ritual 
  • Invite forgiveness  
  • Stay open 
  • Let it visit you 
  • If it doesn’t, seek further ritual 
  • Accept forgiveness when it becomes real to you 

Wherever you are at in this process, know that our advocates are available 24/7 to support you. Our advocates are able to help you create a safety plan, locate a local counselor, or just provide a listening ear via phone (1-800-799-7233) and online chat.  

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A Closer Look at A Star is Born (Thursday, February 21st 2019)

by Krysten, a Hotline Advocate 

The most recent film version of A Star is Born has been gathering heaps of praise from critics and audiences alike, including five Oscar nominations. Many have praised the onscreen chemistry between Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper in the decades-old story of a tragic, intense relationship gone wrong. While few of us are famous musicians, love and heartbreak are surely two things that many of us have experienced. Combine this with A-List talent, phenomenal acting, and memorable musical scenes and you have a stirring musical drama many people, understandably, find themselves connecting with. 

Something that hasn’t received as much attention is the unhealthy dynamics present in Jackson’s relationship with Ally. The film centers around Jackson Maine (portrayed by Bradley Cooper), an established but troubled country rock star with a drug and alcohol addiction. Jackson falls for a younger songwriter named Ally, portrayed by Lady Gaga. He first sees her performing during a drag show and is immediately taken with her. From there, we’re pulled into the ups and downs of their love life, all the way to the tragic end. While the story is compelling and heart wrenching, it’s worth taking a step back and thinking about what could have happened differently.   

One of the main issues with the film, as outlined by Vox, is that Ally’s right to make her own choices (also known as consent) is continually overridden by the men surrounding her, with Jackson being the main culprit. Jackson meets Ally after her performance and convinces her to get a drink with him even though she initially says no (already a red flag). They spend an exciting evening together and open up to each other about their backgrounds and dreams. She shares a song she wrote with him, which Jackson encourages her to perform publicly despite her insecurities. The next day, he offers her a flight out to one of his concerts, but she turns him down due to work obligations. At first, he accepts her decision, but when it’s time for the concert to begin, he becomes upset that she is not there and refuses to start unless she arrives. He feels justified in sending out his personal driver to her doorstep, telling him to refuse to leave until Ally gets in the limo that Jackson sent. Despite her discomfort with the situation, and the fact that she is supposed to go to work, her father encourages her to go to the big show and she eventually agrees. She even acknowledges how unhealthy the situation is, stating to the driver, “If I didn’t know Jack, I would have thought you were a stalker!” In perhaps the most memorable scene, Jackson puts Ally on the spot and pressures her to sing the song she wrote in front of a massive crowd at Jackson’s concert. Ally quickly becomes a viral sensation after videos of the collaboration spread online.  

While it can definitely hurt to get turned down for a date or drink, it’s never okay to make somebody feel guilty for saying no by manipulating them into feeling obligated to take you up on their offer. Even if you are a celebrity, that doesn’t mean you are exempt from respecting your partner’s boundaries. The film very dangerously presents Ally’s indecision as something that may have caused her to miss a once in a lifetime opportunity. A healthy relationship is a partnership based on mutual respect and equality, and that includes respecting the limits and comfort levels of the person you have built a connection with, even if they don’t feel the same way you do. Someone you’re crushing on doesn’t exist just to make you happy and fulfill your emotional needs, and it’s important to always recognize that they are their own person. Ally deserved to be able to share her song with the world on her own terms, and to get to know Jackson at her own pace.  

Another concerning element within the film is the lack of healthy communication from Jackson, in regards to the challenging emotions he faced as Ally’s fame grew. When one partner’s schedule becomes busier, changes in the dynamics of the relationship naturally happen. It’s understandable that Jackson may have felt sad about seeing her less, or even if he felt insecure about his own artistic talent. However, it is important for both partners in a relationship to be open, respectful, and honest about these types of feelings when they do come up. When we have open dialogue about our feelings and concerns with our partner, we are able to offer mutual support and encouragement which allows for both partners to find solutions that may bring them closer. 

It’s also Jackson’s responsibility to examine his own insecurities and find ways to increase his self-esteem, rather than choose to mistreat Ally out of jealousy. Instead of being able to recognize and celebrate her well-deserved success, he shuts down when she shares good news of getting a record deal. Shortly after, Jackson passive aggressively shoves cake in Ally’s face. In an especially painful moment, he even tells her that she’s ugly, is coming off like a “whore” and has become inauthentic after getting a makeover for her new pop star image. Putting your partner down, insulting their appearance and trying to control their appearance is emotional abuse. There is no justification for using abuse to manipulate or pressure a partner into making the choice you want them to make. It is also important to note that while Jackson’s behaviors may have escalated while using substances, drugs and alcohol alone do not cause abusive behavior. We know that abuse is a choice, and each person is only responsible for their own actions and choices. Jackson is the only person that has the ability to address his mindset regarding his relationship with Ally.  

Tragically, the film ends with Jackson choosing to commit suicide. While he never used suicide as a threat against Ally, we do know that many abusive partners do use threats of suicide to manipulate their partner. Additionally, there may be situations where partners who struggle with depression or other mental health related struggles take advantage of their partners’ concerns about them to influence the relationship further. Ally is left feeling responsible for the outcome, which is made even more heartbreaking by the fact that she had just told him that she was cancelling her summer tour to be with him. (Another red flag, since people in relationships deserve to be able to pursue their own dreams and goals without feeling obligated to prioritize their partner over them.) One point that this particular retelling of the story gets right is the presentation of Jackson’s choice to end his life as his decision alone. Older versions of the film tend to portray the situation as Ally’s fault, or something that she could have prevented, had she focused more on him instead of her career. Jackson’s brother offers Ally some validation by letting her know that this was something that only Jackson could control. The film ends on an emotional note, replaying some of Ally and Jackson’s best moments together, as she sings an unreleased love song that he wrote for her at a memorial concert for him.   

With so many memorable moments in this story, it is understandable that so many of us have been swept up watching this beautifully portrayed romance. However, it’s important to remember that it is just that- a movie romance that does not reflect what a healthy relationship should look like. It’s also important to remember that no matter who we are, we all deserve to feel respected and safe with our partners, even during the tough times. Roadblocks and struggles are bound to happen at some point, but in a healthy relationship both partners feel safe and respected even during hard times. Respectful communication can turn these times into opportunities that encourage bonding and fresh insight instead of something that ends in pain. There’s more than enough room for the success and growth of every partner in a healthy relationship, and that’s an attitude that we should all strive to cultivate! 

The post A Closer Look at A Star is Born appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.


“How Can I Talk to My Abuser?” (Tuesday, February 5th 2019)

How Manipulation Prevents Problem-Solving  

by Mindy, a Hotline Advocate 

Here at The Hotline, there are a few common questions we get from victims and survivors regarding how to communicate in their abusive relationships. For example: “How can I talk to my partner to make them understand?”, “What can I do to stop the arguments?”, or “How can I defend myself?” These are all valid questions, and within the framework of a healthy relationship there are possible answers and solutions to those questions. However, these things aren’t likely possible in an abusive relationship, and here’s why: 

We know that abuse is a choice that one partner makes in order to have power and control over the other person. It can be hard to accept that your relationship isn’t healthy, and it may be even harder to acknowledge that your partner is abusive and is choosing to hurt you. It’s normal to look for solutions or ways to address the behavior because you want to fix the relationship. You’ve invested a lot in this relationship (love, time, energy, etc.) so you don’t want to give that up. However, you also know that the way things are right now isn’t right, healthy, or what you signed up for. So, its reasonable that you’re looking for tools on how to communicate with your abusive partner to make them understand that what they are doing is harmful and not okay. The frustrating truth about this is that because abuse is a choice, your partner already knows that their actions are harmful and controlling. Their behavior is like that by design, because they’ve identified what behaviors will get them a desired response, thus they continue to rely on those behaviors. Abuse isn’t something that you- the person experiencing it- can fix or solve, because while abusive behavior is problematic to a relationship, abuse isn’t a relationship problem, it’s an individual’s choice. For that reason, you might often feel like arguments are never solved, that your words get twisted and used against you, or that there’s just nothing you can say to feel understood. This is because your partner does not have the same goals that you have. While you want to focus on solving problems or getting your concerns heard, an abusive partner wants to gain more power and control in the relationship. Unfortunately, it’s often just not possible to try to make healthy relationship choices when your partner is choosing to behave abusively towards you.  

As advocates, we often try to explain why arguing with an abusive person feels so frustrating and confusing, and it’s because an abusive person’s remarks and claims aren’t coming from a rational or truthful place. An example that can help illustrate this is imagining you and your partner looking at the color of the sky. You could spend all day trying to explain that they sky is blue, and an abusive partner would keep saying “Nope, you’re crazy. The sky is obviously green, what’s wrong with you?” Remember, abuse is about control, which means that abusive people use irrational demands and accusations to control the dialogue in the relationship and prevent you from feeling heard or understood. There’s often no way to have a constructive, productive conversation because abusive partners aren’t coming from a place that allows that to happen. This is also an effective manipulation tactic that allows the abusive partner to displace blame and responsibility in order to make their behaviors the fault of someone or something besides themselves. All of this means that there is rarely anything you can say or do that will prevent an argument from starting or escalating. In that moment, the abuser has already decided that they are going to use this opportunity to be manipulative or hurtful.  

Lastly, let’s talk about defenses. To start, there’s a big difference between setting up emotional defenses versus defending yourself. When you’re in an abusive relationship, you often feel exhausted, broken down, or like you’re just trying to keep your head above water while this negative presence is pulling you down. When it comes to protecting yourself, sometimes it can be helpful to consider options you wouldn’t choose in a healthy and safe situation, because this is about prioritizing your safety above all else. While you can’t control your partner’s abusive actions and choices, you can control how you take care of yourself while in that harmful situation. This is why we recommend setting up emotional “defenses” that can help protect you and help you combat the negative effects of the relationship–things like positive affirmations, self-care, building a support system with friends or family, or getting ongoing help through therapy or support groups. 

That being said, we know that self-preservation in the face of something unfair happening to you doesn’t always feel like enough. We often have the urge to stand up for ourselves when someone is hurting us, or we want to show them exactly how much their actions hurt by us responding in kind. While those feelings are understandable (and fighting back when in danger can sometimes be a reflex), safe self-defense is often not possible in an abusive relationship. However, there are strategies you can use to protect yourself during an assault, like calling the police if you think it’s safe to do so. Again, abuse is all about power and control and if you try to stick up for yourself, an abusive partner will likely escalate in order to stop that momentum and maintain control, rather than giving you space to feel heard or understood. This escalation can come in the form of emotional manipulation or gaslighting, or in the form of continued or more severe violence.  

Due to the safety risk, if you are still in an abusive relationship, we never recommend confronting an abusive partner. At the same time, we know though that feeling heard is important. Some possible symbolic ways to confront your partner could include: burning or burying things that remind you of the abuse, acting out the confrontation with someone you trust like a good friend or a counselor, or writing a letter but not giving it to your partner. Important: If you don’t destroy the letter, make sure to keep it in a safe space where your partner won’t find it. Your safety is what’s most valuable, so we always encourage you to trust your instincts, and it’s important to understand that being with a partner who chooses to behave abusively means it’s highly unlikely that you will truly be heard by your partner.  

An abusive relationship is an incredibly difficult thing to go through, and because of the reasons we’ve discussed in this blog post, the simple but difficult answer is that there is likely not a strategy that you can use to safely talk to your abuser to get them to stop being abusive, or to get them to understand/validate your feelings. We know that may be difficult to hear, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have options.  

If you’d like to discuss some options for safety or make a plan of action to leave the relationship, please reach out to our hotline (1-800-799-7233) or chat with us here on the website. We’re here for you 24/7. 

The post “How Can I Talk to My Abuser?” appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.


Stalking Safety Planning (Friday, January 25th 2019)

by Dana, a Hotline Advocate 

Stalking can be one of the most difficult abuse tactics to safety plan around, especially when police involvement and protective orders are either not possible or not helpful in stopping the abuse. Stalking prevents the victim from being able to cut off contact with the abusive partner, which makes it much more difficult for healing to begin. Oftentimes, stalking causes the victim to experience so much fear and anxiety that they return to the relationship because that seems like the only solution to get the abusive partner to stop.  

According to statistics published by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 76% of women murdered by an intimate partner were stalked first, while 85% of women who survived murder attempts were stalked. Additionally, 89% of femicide victims who had been physically assaulted before their murder were stalked in the last year prior to their murder. 

Considering how dangerous stalking is, it is important to be informed and to know what your safety planning options are. To start, what is stalking, and how can you know if you are being stalked? Stalking is generally understood to be a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person, with the intention to intimidate and frighten the victim. According to a US Justice Department study on Stalking and Domestic Violence, “Stalking generally refers to harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person’s home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person’s property. These actions may or may not be accompanied by a credible threat of serious harm, and they may or may not be precursors to an assault or murder.” While stalking behaviors can present during any part of an abusive relationship, the study found stalking to be most common after a victim has left the relationship, and women are significantly more likely to be stalked by a spouse or ex-spouse rather than a stranger, acquaintance, relative, or friend. Considering this, if you are planning to leave an abusive relationship, it is essential to factor in the possibility of stalking when creating your safety plan. 

The legal definition of stalking does vary from state to state, so if you think you are being stalked, it may be helpful to reach out to local law enforcement or a legal advocate to learn more about the specific laws in your area. The National Stalking Awareness Month website also has information about stalking laws in every state as a part of their resource database.

Also, if you believe you are experiencing stalking, document as much about the behaviors in question as possible to create evidence of a pattern of a behavior, which can be helpful when making a report to law enforcement.  We do know that stalking can include a variety of tactics and behaviors, some of which are more obviously threatening, and some of which, taken in isolation, can seem innocent or not worth mentioning. Document anything that makes you feel afraid or uncomfortable, no matter how small it seems.

Stalking can be physical and/or digital, and could include tactics such as:

  • making repeated and unwanted phone calls or texts 
  • sending unwanted letters or emails 
  • following or spying on you 
  • showing up wherever you are without a legitimate reason to be there 
  • driving by or waiting around at places (home, work, school, etc) you frequent 
  • leaving/sending unwanted items, presents, or flowers for you to find 
  • posting information or spreading rumors about you on the internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth 
  • looking through your property (including trash cans, your mail, or your car) 
  • taking your property 
  • collecting information about you 
  • taking pictures of you  
  • damaging your home, car, or other property 
  • monitoring your phone calls, email, social media, or other computer use 
  • using technology, like hidden cameras or GPS, to track you 
  • threatening to hurt you, your family, friends, or pets 
  • finding out information by using public records or online search services, hiring investigators 
  • contacting friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers about you  

This list is not inclusive of every behavior that a stalker might use, as stalking tactics will be targeted towards what will impact the intended victim the most. Threats of violence may be implicit or explicit. Remember, even if the stalker’s behaviors are not considered illegal in your state, their behavior is still abusive and there is nothing that you could ever say or do to deserve to be treated in that way. Stalking is never your fault; it is a tactic the abuser is using to intimidate and frighten you so they can (re)gain power and control over you. 

If you are being stalked, what can you do? Common safety planning tips for physical stalking include:  

  • varying your routine (including using a different bank and grocery store, taking a different route to work and/or school, changing the places you normally frequent)  
  • not traveling alone; use the buddy system as much as possible 
  • staying in public areas as much as possible  
  • notifying friends/family members/neighbors/landlord/school/day care/coworkers/supervisor about the stalking 
  • developing a code word to use when the stalker is present or when you’re worried you may be in danger (when you text a friend or family member the code word, they know you need help and they follow a previously outlined plan to get you the help you need- this may involve calling the police) 
  • increasing home security (installing deadbolts, window locks or grates, visible security cameras, motion-activated outdoor lights, and/or a home security system)  
  • making a police report and getting a protective order against the stalker (this might not prevent the stalking, but it will allow you to report any violations of the order to the local police, increasing the likelihood that the stalker will eventually face legal consequences) 

Safety planning tips for on-line stalking include:  

  • blocking their phone number and blocking them on social media (and asking your friends to block them/report their account as spam) 
  • contacting your e-mail provider to see if they can block an e-mail address 
  • changing your phone number and e-mail address or creating new ones for daily use 
  • increasing internet security on all devices 
  • checking devices for spyware  
  • finding out if your state has any laws specific to cyberstalking and online harassment 

It is important to save any text messages, emails, voicemails, or letters for documentation purposes, and to keep in mind the possibility that blocking or attempting to block the stalker’s access to you could cause them to retaliate further. The stalker might keep changing their phone number or email address, or even create spam accounts to try to friend you on social media. If some of the above safety planning tips feel too extreme, you might decide to keep your old phone number active but let their calls go straight to voicemail and not answer calls from unknown numbers, or you could keep your old email address but not respond to any of the emails they send. 

Whatever you choose to include or not include in your safety plan, it is important to remember that you do not owe this abusive person a response. After you’ve initially asked them to stop contacting you, it is typically safer to not respond to them. It is unlikely that you will be able to convince them to stop stalking you by telling them to stop repeatedly, as stalking is about gaining power and control over you. If the stalker promises to stop contacting you if you meet with them to talk in person, that is likely an attempt to put you in a vulnerable position so they can use other abusive tactics against you. Threats against your family and friends are similarly meant as emotional blackmail to convince you to give the abuser more access to you. Acknowledging their behaviors with a reply to their harassment is likely to be taken by them as a sign these tactics are working, which could cause the abusive behavior to increase. It also increases the likelihood that you could be accused of collaborating with the abuser, weakening any legal case you have against them moving forward. 

Remember, this situation is not your fault! Abusive individuals are known to be charismatic and manipulative. Once you’ve communicated your boundaries and asked them to cease contact, you do not owe them further communication, and its generally best to end contact altogether and take steps to keep yourself safe from them.  

What if you’ve tried all these tips and nothing is working? Other creative safety planning tips include:  

  • keeping the curtains/shades in your home closed all the time, or making a habit of turning on random lights in different parts of the home at different times of day (or installing a timer on existing lamps), so that lights being on are not an indication of when you are home 
  • putting a sign with the name of a security system visible in your yard or a window 
  • notifying neighborhood watch or your homeowner’s association about the situation (if you don’t feel comfortable being public about the stalking, mention that you have seen a “suspicious person” frequenting the area and give a physical description of the stalker) 
  • sharing the make/model/license plate number of any vehicles you know the stalker uses with anyone you have notified about the stalking, both so they will also be able to document and so they can reach out to warn you if they see the stalker 
  • asking your landlord or neighbor to stop by the property at random times to “check” on it 
  • asking your bank and doctor’s office to password protect your information and account  
  • giving a trusted friend a key and ask them to stop by randomly to “water your plants” or “feed your pet” which increases the likelihood of catching the stalker in action 
  • getting a dog that barks to discourage the stalker from coming near your home 
  • putting bells or chimes on all your windows and doors 
  • asking co-workers to screen your calls and help you keep a lookout for the stalker 
  • adding encrypted passwords to your phone and email  
  • getting new devices (phone, computer, etc.) altogether, if you’re concerned spyware has been installed  
  • asking the police to send an officer to patrol the neighborhood at a time the stalker often comes by, if any pattern can be discovered (call 9-1-1 and give an anonymous tip of a suspicious person in your area if you don’t want to or cannot divulge the abuse formally to the authorities) 

If you think you are a victim of stalking and need safety planning assistance, do not hesitate to call 1-800-799-7233 or online chat with an advocate about further options and support. You deserve to live a life free from abuse and fear. We are here to support you 24/7! 

The post Stalking Safety Planning appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.


The National Domestic Violence Hotline supports Jane Doe and will not continue to support Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee as the lead sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). (Wednesday, January 23rd 2019)

The National Domestic Violence Hotline supports Jane Doe and will not continue to support Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee as the lead sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

“The Hotline answers the call to support and shift power back to people affected by relationship abuse through the nearly 400,000 contacts we field each year from survivors, many of whom experience co-occurring forms of violence such as sexual violence. Our work begins and ends with the interests of survivors, and we stand in support of all victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The Hotline lends its support to Jane Doe, a survivor who has filed a retaliation complaint against the Office of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation for mishandling Doe’s report of sexual assault.

While Rep. Jackson Lee has been critical in shepherding VAWA reauthorization during the 115th Congress, The Hotline can no longer continue to support her leading VAWA reauthorization at this time. We will work enthusiastically with House Leadership as they consider a path forward on VAWA reauthorization.

At The Hotline, we stand with all survivors, regardless of their race, economic status, sexual orientation or immigration status. If you or someone you know is in need of support or resources, please call 1-800-799-7233, all day 365 days a year. We are able to provide support via phone in 200+ languages. You can also chat online here on our website.”

— Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline

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Healing Through the Arts (Friday, January 18th 2019)

by Dana, a Hotline Advocate

Here at the Hotline, we know the importance of a self-care routine as a means for coping with stress and dealing with the complicated emotional and physical responses that can arise from the trauma of abuse. An on-going commitment to self-care and personal wellness is an important part of recovery and healing, and many survivors face unique challenges in being able to create a self-care routine that works well for them.  

We do know that survivors of abuse can experience long-terms changes to their mental and emotional health, even after leaving an abusive relationship. These changes may include anxiety, isolation/avoidance, and/or irritability; flashbacks, intrusive thoughts and/or nightmares; and guilt/shame, depression, and/or negative self-image. People who are dealing with symptoms like this are sometimes diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, it can be helpful to know that traumatic events affect people in all kinds of ways and there is nothing wrong with you if you find yourself struggling to heal from the impact of past abuse. 

Recent research shows that traumatic memories are stored in the right back region of the brain, which is associated with non-verbal memories (sights, sounds, and smells associated with a past event), rather than the left front area of the brain, which is associated with verbal memories. This means that commonly recommended self-care activities like journaling, talking to a friend, or even traditional talk therapy might not be the most effective strategies for working through those memories and the emotional and physical reactions attached to them. 

So, what is someone to do in that case? What could help where other strategies fail? 

Art expression (in all its forms) activates the right brain because it incorporates your senses by providing tactile, kinesthetic, auditory, and/or visual information. This means that arts activities can tap into traumatic memories the way that other, less sensory activities cannot. There is evidence that engagement with artistic activities, either as an observer or as an initiator, can enhance your mood, emotions, and other psychological states, while reducing symptoms like stress and depression. 

One possible way to benefit from the healing power of the arts is by participating in creative arts or expressive arts therapy. This can include art, music, dance/movement, drama, poetry, play, or sand tray therapy. Being able to create a visual representation of intense emotions or move your body in creative ways can help you express parts of the experience that may be difficult to put into words.  

Creating art can also help you access a flow state where you are unaware of the passage of time and the outside world fades away; this state has been described as “being in the zone.” Spending time in this flow state can be beneficial as it is known to reduce the negative effects of repetitive or intrusive thoughts and it allows unconscious associations to emerge, which can help you make meaning out of your experiences. 

While many survivors do find formal therapy to be very beneficial as they work towards healing from trauma, it is not necessary to participate in formal arts therapy to reap the benefits of creativity. Any repetitive action (sewing, gardening, yoga, drawing, etc.) releases dopamine, a chemical in our brains that is related to the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Engaging in creative pursuits regularly can help train your brain to produce more of these feel-good chemicals that can improve your mood over time. Creative activities are helpful because they tend to culminate in a positive result – whether it’s something tangible like a painting, or the sense of pride that comes from finally mastering a new dance step. Participating in activities that allow you to see that you’re making progress can be especially healing when you’ve endured something that made you feel helpless in the past. The experience of making concrete progress can increase your self-esteem and reinforce healthy habits, helping you feel motivated to continue doing things that improve your mood and help you work through the trauma you’ve endured.  

One of the most powerful things about using the arts to heal is that it can help you begin to tap back into your sense of self and purpose. If addressing larger life goals feels too overwhelming, meeting a creative goal can help you re-engage with your productivity in a way that’s enjoyable and will foster positive brain connections. Engaging in creative activities is a way to reclaim your autonomy and do something purely for yourself and for the enjoyment it brings.  

Additionally, being creative can help you strengthen social connections. You might consider taking an arts class in your community and use the class as a chance to meet new people and create a support system. This also could be an opportunity to get positive feedback from the other group members, which can be a stepping stone to overcoming feelings of self-doubt or shame about your creativity. Many creative arts or expressive arts therapists also offer group therapy, which can provide a safer space to connect with others who can more deeply understand those feelings of grief, anger, and helplessness, and can support the journey towards healing. 

Research on post-traumatic stress highlights a benefit of healing from trauma, which has been named post-traumatic growth. Post-traumatic growth refers to the resiliency that emerges after experiencing intense stress, including stronger interpersonal relationships, identification of new possibilities, increased personal strength, enhanced spirituality, and greater life appreciation. Scientific American quotes research by Marie Forgeard which found that while unwanted, intrusive rumination about traumatic events leads to a decline in all five areas of growth, controlled and deliberate rumination leads to an increase in every area associated with post-traumatic growth. Creative expression is one way to harness the power of this deliberate rumination, contributing to future growth and healing. 

In summary, creative expression can be one way for survivors to take back control of their life’s narrative, tap back into their strengths and skill sets, and create meaning from their life experiences. In this way, creativity can be as empowering as it is enjoyable, and can help survivors foster a new future filled with endless possibilities. If you are a survivor of intimate partner violence who is struggling to heal from past abuse, or if you need help creating a self-care plan that works for you, we are here to support you. Advocates are available 24/7 via phone (1-800-799-7233) and online chat.

The post Healing Through the Arts appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.


Press Release: Statement on professional athlete Reuben Foster (Thursday, December 6th 2018)

A statement from Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline in response to the recent arrest of professional athlete, Reuben Foster, on domestic violence charges and the Washington Redskins decision to put a waiver claim for him.

“Despite many Americans stating that domestic violence is never okay, it remains highly pervasive in our society.  While cases like the one involving pro football player Reuben Foster make headlines, the fact is one in four women (24.3%) and one in seven men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Whether they’re a small business or a large organization like the Washington Redskins, we believe employers can play a critical role in ending domestic violence by ensuring that they have policies in place that protect victims, educate employees, and provide resources to help abusers access the tools they need to change their behavior.

While we do not comment on allegations, the rush by the Washington Redskins to give Foster a place in their organization while an investigation is underway, sends the wrong message that bad personal behavior is condoned if you are good at what you do professionally. Every day at The National Domestic Violence Hotline, we answer between 1600 and 2000 contacts from victims of abuse. Domestic violence is never okay and the blame for abusive behavior is solely the responsibility of the abusive partner.

For those who may wonder why any victim of domestic violence remains in an abusive relationship, we encourage you to learn more about the complexities of domestic violence by visiting www.thehotline.org. Whether it be for their children, their pets, their family, a lack of financial means, fear of their abusive partner, and even love, a domestic violence victim may choose to stay in an abusive relationship. Our experience tells us that survivors will leave and return approximately seven times before they leave their abuser for good.

For those who are a victim of domestic violence or for those who know someone affected by abuse, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is a vital resource. To reach an expert advocate, simply call 1-800-799-SAFE, TTY 1-800-787-3224 or visit www.thehotline.org for the option to live chat and to get more information about domestic violence and available resources. Advocates are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and interpreters are available in 220 languages.”

                         — Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline

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National Domestic Violence Hotline and Avon Partner with Suze Orman to Shed Light on Financial Abuse in Special Video Series “Women Breaking Free: Stories of Strength from Survivors of Domestic Violence” (Monday, October 8th 2018)

For Immediate Release

Series released for October National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Austin, TX – October 8, 2018 – Avon, the Avon Foundation for Women, and The National Domestic Violence Hotline have joined with financial expert Suze Orman to produce a video series featuring empowering stories of women overcoming domestic violence – including one of the least discussed forms of abuse, financial abuse.  Women Breaking Free: Stories of Strength from Survivors of Domestic Violence will begin playing on TheHotline.org the first weekend in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The seven part series is designed to raise awareness of the signs of financial abuse for both victims, as well as friends and family members of victims, and provide tips to overcome it.  Financial abuse can have the most devastating and long-lasting impact on the lives of survivors and their families. Financial abuse keeps victims tied to their abusers even when there is nothing physically preventing them from leaving, and can take many different forms. Stories include partners who control their partner’s spending habits, preventing a partner from accessing bank accounts and keeping a partner from having a credit card. TheHotline.org lists ways a partner extends power and control into the area of finances here.

The videos are hosted by Suze Orman, two-time Emmy Award-winning television host, author and motivational speaker.  The women, who come from all walks of life, courageously share intimate details of abuse they endured by husbands or boyfriends. Orman provides expert advice and insights that will help all women become strong, smart and secure.

Orman said, “When Avon joined forces with The Hotline and they asked me to interview women who have survived abusive relationships, I said, ‘Count me in!’ NOW is the time for women to stand up for themselves, know who they are, and never, ever, ever be at the hands of an abuser.”

“As the company for women, Avon is committed to inspiring the financial independence, health and wellbeing of women and their families.  With one in four women shown to be a victim of domestic violence sometime in her life, that means we all know a mother, a sister, a friend, a daughter who has experienced abuse,” shared Debbie Coffey, Vice President, Corporate Communications, New Avon LLC. “Without adequate economic resources, women are often incapable of breaking free of abusive relationships.   Given Avon’s focus on providing economic opportunities, it is only natural that the company is passionate about ending violence against women.  We are so proud to partner with The Hotline and Avon Foundation on this project which will inspire women who have been abused to take positive steps forward in financial and physical security.”

The Hotline receives between 1,600 and 2,000 contacts a day from people across the United States seeking support or resources relating to domestic violence. Financial abuse is playing an ever-increasing role in a woman’s inability to leave a relationship.  Katie Ray-Jones, Chief Executive Officer of the National Domestic Violence Hotline said, “We wanted to share how pervasive financial abuse is in domestic violence relationships and we felt Suze Orman was the perfect partner to examine this, offer solutions, and show that anything is possible if you believe in yourself.  In this video series, we see incredibly brave women come forward and tell their stories of abuse with the hope that by sharing their experience they will help change someone else’s life.”

The series produced by Ten22 Films and Postmodern will post on TheHotline.org. Viewers are encouraged to watch and share the videos via their social media channels using the hashtag #WomenBreakingFree.

For more information on the National Domestic Violence Hotline, please visit www.thehotline.org. Facebook: NationalDomesticViolenceHotline, Twitter: @NDVH, or Instagram: National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Contact: Lisa Lawrence
Cell: 803-470-6384
Email: hotline.media@ndvh.org



About Suze Orman
Suze Orman has been called “a force in the world of personal finance” and a “one-woman financial advice powerhouse” by USA Today. She is a two-time Emmy Award-winning television host and one of the top motivational speakers in the world today.

The single most successful fundraiser in the history of PBS, Orman has received an unprecedented eight Gracie awards, which recognize the nation’s best radio, television, and cable programming by, for, and about women. Twice named to the Time 100 and ranked among the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes, Orman was the host of The Suze Orman Show on CNBC for 13 years and a contributing editor to O: The Oprah Magazine for sixteen. She recently released her updated and revised best-seller, Women & Money and is currently a contributing editor to The Costco Connection and the host of the Women & Money podcast.

In 2016, Orman was appointed as the official personal-finance educator for the United States Army and Army Reserve. She also serves as a Special Advocate for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, bringing her message of awareness and empowerment to women who have suffered financial abuse. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago, earned a bachelor’s degree in social work at the University of Illinois and at the age of 30 was still a waitress making $400 a month.

In recognition of her revolutionary contribution to the way Americans think about personal finance, she has received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Illinois and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Illinois and an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree from Bentley University. She has also received the National Equality Award from the Human Rights Campaign. Visit suzeorman.com and follow her on Facebook.com/suzeorman and on Twitter: @SuzeOrmanShow.

About New Avon LLC
New Avon LLC (“Avon”) is the leading social selling beauty company in North America, with independent sales Representatives throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada. Avon’s portfolio includes award-winning skincare, color cosmetics, fragrance, personal care and health and wellness products featuring brands such as ANEWAvon True ColorEspira, and Skin So Soft, as well as fashion and accessories.  Avon has a 130-year history of empowering women through economic opportunity, and supporting the causes that matter most to women. Avon philanthropy has contributed over $1 billion globally toward eradicating breast cancer and domestic violence. Learn more about Avon and its products at www.avon.com.

About Avon Foundation for Women
The Avon Foundation for Women is committed to supporting issues that matter most to women. Since its inception in 1955, the Avon Foundation has promoted or aided charitable, scientific, educational, and humanitarian activities, with a special emphasis on activities that improve the lives of women and their families. Through 2017, Avon and the Avon Foundation for Women have contributed over $1 billion in over 50 countries to support its efforts to eradicate breast cancer and to help end violence against women and girls worldwide. Today, Avon global cause programs focus on breast health awareness and prevention through the Avon Breast Cancer Promise, and to help end violence through the Avon Promise to Help End Violence Against Women and Girls. Visit www.avonfoundation.org for more information.

About the National Domestic Violence Hotline
The National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) is a vital service that answers the call to support and shift power back to victims and survivors of relationship abuse through human connection and practical assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The Hotline’s highly-trained, expert advocates provide compassionate support to anyone who reaches out for help with lifesaving resources, safety planning and hope. The Hotline is a non-profit established in 1996 as a component of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

loveisrespect is a project of The Hotline. Its purpose is to engage, educate and empower young people to prevent and end abusive relationships. The organization provides information and support to concerned friends and family members, teachers, counselors, service providers and members of law enforcement. Free and confidential phone, live chat and texting services are available 24/7/365. Advocates provide support through online chat at loveisrespect.org, text (send loveis to 22522*) or phone, 1-866-331-9474.

The Hotline relies on the generous support of individuals, private gifts from corporations and foundations and federal grants. It is funded in part by Grant Number 90EV0407/03 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)/Administration for Children and Families. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Administration for Children and Families or the U.S. Department of HHS.


*Msg&Data Rates apply on text for help services. Read our privacy policy and Terms & Conditions. Text STOP to 22522 to unsubscribe. Text HELP to 22522 for tech support. Loveisrespect Text for Help Services are sponsored by Mary Kay Inc.

The post National Domestic Violence Hotline and Avon Partner with Suze Orman to Shed Light on Financial Abuse in Special Video Series “Women Breaking Free: Stories of Strength from Survivors of Domestic Violence” appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.