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The National Domestic Violence Hotline

The Hotline

Myths Around Men Experiencing Abuse (Tuesday, November 28th 2017)

By Tatiana Shams, Content Manager

Talking about abuse and domestic violence can be a difficult task for anyone. It can be painful, confusing and make you feel ashamed, inadequate and isolated.

And it can be incredibly challenging when you are a man because of all the stigma, fear, misinformation and societal pressures that only men seem to experience.

We know that while domestic violence does not discriminate when it comes to gender, men seem to not report abuse in the same way women do. In fact, many men remain silent because they think there’s no point in reporting the abuse because no one will ever believe them. Let’s debunk some of the myths about abuse and why are men not believed:

Myth #1:

The world tells us that men can’t be victims of abuse: We know that 1 in 10 men have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner and yet, we also hear from our male contacts that they are simply not believed or taken seriously when reporting the abuse to family members, friends or law enforcement. On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner, so violence can and does happen to men too!

Myth #2:

The media tells us men are just the perpetrators of violence, but never the victims: In “Contribution of Media to the Normalization and Perpetuation of Domestic Violence,” we see that domestic violence has become so pervasive in our society thanks to media exposure that we have become desensitized and even accustomed to it. According to this study, “chronic and repeated exposure to domestic violence is believed to cause changes in affective, cognitive, and behavioral processes.” So, what happens when this repeated exposure only portrays men as perpetrators and not victims? You get the idea. But make no mistake: domestic violence is not normal, it’s not a joke and it’s not something we should readily accept as something that only happens to women. It happens to men too.

Myth #3:

Men are not real men if they can’t take it: We hear from male contacts that reach out to The Hotline daily that they feel emasculated and like less of a man when undergoing situations of abuse at the hands of their spouses or partners. Some have even reported feeling so ashamed that they don’t want to acknowledge the abuse because they fear that if they do they will make the situation “real.” According to the American Psychological Association, stereotypes of masculinity can have a negative effect on young boys and men because they can stigmatize “normal human emotions,” and if a man feels stigmatized about what’s happening to him, it’s very likely they might not want to report the abuse or talk about ways of dealing with it and their emotions. Feeling angry, scared or sad are normal emotions for all people when dealing with abuse regardless of sex or sexual orientation and they don’t have to “take it” to prove their masculinity.

Myth #4:

Men don’t have access to the same resources as women: While there seem to be more resources for women than men when it comes to dealing with domestic violence, we continue to make strides toward this issue. In Oct. 2017, the Associated Press reported that a shelter exclusively for men was the second of its kind to open its doors in the state of Texas. They suggest more resources are becoming available to men as society’s views on abuse and domestic violence affecting men are also changing.

Myth #5:

Men who are gay or bisexual will bring shame to the LGBTQIA community if they report being victims of abuse: It’s already hard enough dealing with abuse when you are a heterosexual person, but for gay or trans men this can be even more difficult, as we hear from some LGBTQIA contacts that reporting abuse in a same-sex or trans-relationship will bring “shame” to their community because it will create more stereotypes, misinformation and also because some of them feel this is an issue that should be dealt with only behind closed doors. As Audre Lorde famously coined, “silence will not protect you,” regardless of what your sexual orientation is, it is always worth talking about it and it’s always worth leaving.

To combat these myths, here are a few ideas to help men affected by abuse and domestic violence:

Believe victims and survivors: One of the most important and compassionate things that we can do to support male victims of abuse and domestic violence is to simply believe. It’s worth repeating: do not judge, do not criticize and listen without questioning the victim’s experience. It’s already hard enough to reach out for help when you are a man, so if you find that a male victim wants to share their experience with you, don’t be so quick to judge or assume that they are not telling the truth.

Document the abuse: This is a great way to not only keep track of the situation but also to materialize the abuse, as we mentioned before, many people believe that if they don’t talk about it’s like it’s not really happening. If you are experiencing abuse, it may help to document the situation: There are several ways you can do document the abuse: take pictures of yourself if you have physical cuts and bruises, keep a calendar that shows the instances of the abuse suffered or start journaling as a way to document the abuse in an organized fashion. Documenting the abuse can help in two ways: It can be a cathartic way to deal with negative emotions and it may also help the victim to obtain legal aid later on. Remember, if you decide to document your experience, make sure your abuser can’t get access to your documents or pictures, so he/she can’t destroy the evidence and so that you can remain safe while you figure out the next steps in your relationship.

Find a support system: Perhaps there’s a good friend or a coworker you can confide in when talking about what you are experiencing. Having a strong support system could be the key to get through difficult times. You don’t have to share everything that is happening to you, but just the fact there is someone there to listen to what you are going through can be beneficial for your emotional well-being.

Take a proactive approach to your own safety: Keeping your mental, emotional and physical sanity in check are great ways to remain grounded during and after a situation of abuse. Perhaps you like to play video games, read comics or lift weights. Engage in activities that make you feel happy and good about yourself. Avoid self-destructive behaviors such binge-drinking, using drugs or anything that can have negative consequences for your health or the health of those around you.

Reach out to The Hotline for help: Know that our advocates are here to support you every step of the way with a sympathetic hear and zero judgment. We are here 24/7/365 and our interactions are completely free and confidential.

This article is an updated version of Men Can Be Victims of Abuse, Too

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Tips For When A Survivor Asks You For Help (Tuesday, November 28th 2017)

By Heather, Advocate

If someone you care about has been facing abuse from their partner and they ask for your help it can be overwhelming to figure out what to do, so we’ve compiled some tips to make your help, well…helpful!

Don’t assume, ask! No matter how well you know a survivor, the only person who can tell you how they feel or what they need is them. Calling the police when your neighbor is being yelled at may put them in danger if that’s not something they’ve asked you to do. Survivors of intimate partner violence have already been dealing with their abusive partner disregarding their wants, needs and boundaries, so to help a survivor it’s vital that you respect their autonomy. The best way to do that is with one simple question–”How can I help?”

Work smarter, not harder: It may be useful to think of helping a friend who is facing or has just left an abusive relationship as you would think of helping someone who is grieving the death of someone they loved. Framing your help this way, especially around the house, can ensure you don’t displace something that has big memories or emotions attached to it. If your friend or family member asks you to pick up groceries, for example, a list will likely be inadequate; instead, take pictures of the labels of the brands and products your friend is used to—why? Because there’s comfort in consistency. Similarly, before picking up around the house or throwing anything away, check in with your friend.

Safety first: At The Hotline, we talk about safety for a good reason: every year more than 12 million people in the United States are abused by a current or former intimate partner. No matter what a survivor has asked you to do, the first thing you should talk about is how to create a safety plan. Basically, this means thinking through all of the possible outcomes of any given action the abuser may take and prepare yourself for how you could stay safe if they were to occur. From pregnancy and kids to pets and travel, and everything in between, safety planning is important for everyone who has been threatened by an abuser. Your loved one knows their abusive partner or ex-partner better than anyone, so they’re the best judge of what will keep them—and you—safe.

Take care of yourself: This last tip may feel counterintuitive because your loved one has asked you to help them, but we know dealing with abuse and its aftermath can be really difficult for people who love survivors too. It’s crucial that you listen to your own instincts and respect your body’s needs for food, water, movement, sleep and happiness. It’s OK to take a day, or even a week off, to recharge your emotional battery and focus your energy on things that relax you and bring you joy. Think about it like being on an airplane—you have to put your own oxygen mask on first before you can help anyone else!

If someone you know has asked you for help dealing with or escaping an abusive partner, first, encourage them to reach out to The Hotline via phone or chat, if it’s safe, and then, you can call or chat with us too. Our advocates can help you make a safety plan that’s customized to your friend or family member’s situation, and help you find articles and examples of safety planning to share with your loved one as well. We’re here 24/7/365 to help everyone affected by abuse. Call us at 1-800-799-7233 or chat with an advocate now using the “Chat Online Now” button at the top of the page.

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Pathway to Healing—Write It Down, Burn It Down! (Tuesday, November 28th 2017)

By Tatiana Shams, Content Manager

“I want to forgive my partner but I don’t know how.”

“I will never forgive this person for what they did.”

Have you heard that famous phrase, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die?”

At The Hotline, we hear so many voices echoing this feeling every day. Some of our contacts tell us that although they are now living free of abuse, they still struggling with resentment: They are unable to forgive their abuser. And forgiveness is a unique tool that will help you on your path to recovery.

The act of forgiving seems easy, but we know first-hand that forgiving someone is way more complex than that. You see, forgiveness is a decision (just as much as abuse is also a decision but rooted in power and control). But forgiving someone you love—like an abuser—is not only hard, it can make you feel confused, angry and more importantly, resentful.

Although it is normal to experience resentment at some point in our lives, it can really have a devastating effect on a person’s mental and physical wellbeing, as Steven Stosny, Ph.D. points out. Not only it boosts stress, it can also let you feeling down and incapable of seeing things for what they really are or having positive and meaningful interactions with those around you. That’s because until you don’t let go of that “poison” you can’t move on to the forgiving part.

If you’d like to forgive your partner but don’t know how here is the first idea on our Pathway to Healing Series to get you started on the new chapter of your life: forgiveness.

Try writing it down, then, burn it down: As simple as this sounds, it can be incredibly challenging for survivors of abuse to acknowledge the abuse via writing because they may feel like reliving the abuse in their heads all over again. As Louise Hay used to say, “forgiveness doesn’t mean allowing the painful behaviors or actions of another to continue in your life. Sometimes forgiveness means letting go: You forgive that person and then you release them.” We know writing can therapeutic, so that’s why we suggest maybe taking a piece of paper and writing a letter to your abuser; tell this person how you feel and what would you like to have done differently and if you find it in your heart, forgive the other person and their trespasses by clearly writing, “I forgive you.” Take this one step further and let go of the “poison” by burning the letter (or sending it to your abuser if there’s no direct legal or physical implications to you or your family). Releasing the anger, frustration, and resentment in a written way and then burning it down may be a good way to cope with resentment and letting go of the past. Just be careful when lighting those matches!

If you need other strategies and coping mechanisms to deal with resentment and moving on after abuse, please do not hesitate to reach out to our advocates. They are here 24/7/365 to listen with a sympathetic ear and zero judgment. Our services are free and confidential. You can call 1-800-799-7233 or chat with us via the “Chat Online Now” button.

Stay tuned for more ways to help you heal in the next entry for Pathway to Healing!

The post Pathway to Healing—Write It Down, Burn It Down! appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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Abuse Isn’t Part of My Love Journey–For Me It Was the Exit (Wednesday, November 1st 2017)

By Annie Apple

Even as a bright young woman with confidence and a strong personality, I found myself falling for a man who emotionally and physically abused me. How did that happen—and to me? As I look back, I see where I went wrong. And I can’t reiterate this enough: a woman is never the cause of a man hitting or abusing her. I say this because through past and recent choices in relationships I had to reevaluate my definition of love.

To accept abusive behavior is to believe you’re not worthy of anything else. And let’s be perfectly clear: abuse is never the victim’s fault. If you’ve accepted this to be true, you probably resigned yourself to a false perspective of what love is—you believed you were not worthy of respect and adoration because an abusive partner told you so.

When it comes to domestic violence, much of the attention is focused on physical violence, but equally as deadly are emotional and verbal abuse which almost always precede physical violence.

There’s a certain predatory manipulation that happens to make us accept cruel and violent treatment. Victims are first isolated, slowly but methodically separated from family and friends or anyone who truly cares about us and our wellbeing. Victims are made to believe that our abuser is the only one who cares about us, and we falsely think that’s love. But that’s not love; that’s control. We interpret rage-filled jealousy as passion, but that’s not passion—that’s possessiveness. And possessiveness is not about love. It’s about control. You’re not a possession. You’re a person worthy of love!

So, how do we know what love is and what it is not?

As a child, I never had a front-row seat to healthy marriages and relationships. No matter how bright and happy of a childhood I had, love was on a completely different stratosphere. Every song and movie depicted love as a battlefield or a challenge you have to suffer through. So, logically, I started to believe that love is supposed to be hard. I believed the lie that relationships go through good times and bad times and that verbal and physical abuse are simply part of the love journey. I accepted the bad days because I believed the good ones were around the corner. But I soon recognized that the good days were no longer visible because no matter how happy I found myself, I knew a violent trigger was coming. And I accepted it because I had a flawed perspective on love.

As a woman, I was taught to be the one that holds the man up, and if I did what I was told, I wouldn’t get hit. But the biggest lesson I learned (and recently relearned) is that when a man loves you he protects you, your heart and your reputation. He doesn’t harm you emotionally or physically. And if he’s harming you, that is not love. No matter how charming and nice he may seem, if he’s being verbally or physically abusive, you should consider that perhaps he’s not the right person for you.

Love is not violent. Love is kind. And to me, abuse provided an exit out of a relationship that was not meant for me. Abuse in my case, was the exit I needed to understand what love was really about.

About Annie Apple:

Annie Apple is the founder and president of Raising A Pro, a 501c3 organization. She is a mother of four, including Eli Apple of the New York Giants and joined ESPN as a contributor to Sunday NFL Countdown in 2016. Annie manages and contributes to her lifestyle blog, SurvivinAmerica.com.

 

 

 

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Why Didn’t You Say Anything? (Tuesday, October 31st 2017)

By Tatiana Shams, Content Manager

It’s the story breaking the internet: Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace after several accusations of sexual assault, harassment, misconduct and rape. Since the story broke earlier this month, several women (and men) have spoken against Weinstein’s alleged casting couch practices, which apparently go back to the late 90s.

Unfortunately, the Weinstein scandal is not an isolated event. This year alone, we’ve had other similar stories that involve influential people such as Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly and even Kevin Spacey—all of which leaves us wondering: how come so many people decided to stay silent in situations where there’s abuse? Is there real strength in numbers as we see today with the men and women that decided to speak out against Weinstein’s alleged unwanted sexual advances?

As we hear thousands of voices clamoring for justice in favor of our favorite stars via web, television and printed media, we also hear a lot of judgment about the alleged victims’ actions—or lack thereof:

“Staying silent makes you an accomplice.”

“Staying silent perpetuates sexual abuse.”

“You need to speak out.”

“Why did you stay silent?”

“I would have said something.”

“That would have never happened to me.”

The truth is that speaking out against abuse is not always a readily available option for people experiencing relationship abuse or sexual assault. We bear witness to this, as more than 50 accusers have only now come forward against Weinstein’s misconduct. And we also hear it from the thousands of people who reach out to The Hotline for help every day. We know that abuse thrives in isolation and that it walks hand-in-hand with fear.

Fear muzzles the truth. It hides behind a veil of shame, and it rips you open from the inside out, making you feel like less of a person. We also know first-hand that fearing an abusive partner can be paralyzing, traumatizing and have long-lasting effects on people’s psyche and body. This fear is perhaps what happened to the many victims affected by Weinstein in the last two decades. Maybe they were simply too afraid to speak out.

To understand violence, we need to accept that fear is a completely natural reaction to a threat, and therefore, it is OK to be afraid. What we can’t do, however, is point fingers at the victims and blame them for not speaking out sooner. We are not in their shoes, and we will never know exactly how they feel. In light of this, here are some reasons why victims and survivors may feel afraid of talking about their experience with abuse:

  • Fear of being judged or not being believed: Being a victim of abuse can leave victims feeling ashamed and less-than a person. It can also leave them feeling like no one will believe them because it’s somehow their fault or that they were asking for it. The truth is that regardless of how the abuse happened, abuse is never the victim’s fault and they were never asking for it. It’s worth repeating: it’s important to remember to provide a sympathetic ear free of judgment, validate the other’s person’s experience and just being present when victims of violence or sexual assault are ready to open up.
  • Fear of retaliation and going nowhere in their careers: The Weinstein scandal brings this concept relatively close to home: victims fearing they would never find work because of the power Weinstein had in the film industry. The same can be said for people outside of the movie industry because, as we know, abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of social status, gender, color or background. Our callers and chatters tell us how very real the fear of retaliation is as many of them fear being ostracized by their communities, outed if they are LGBTQIA or afraid of losing their children, their jobs and their credibility and reputation amongst family and friends.
  • Fear of feeling responsible for the abuse or that speaking up can lead to direct physical harm: Sometimes there’s a huge level of shame associated with attacks like this, as many survivors may feel it was their fault or that speaking up against their abuser may be unsafe and lead to physical harm. According to the New Yorker, feeling responsible for the alleged abuse was reported by Italian actress, Asia Argento. She said she felt responsible for not fighting back because “If I were a strong woman, I would have kicked him in the balls and run away. But I didn’t. And so I felt responsible.” Feeling responsible for not fighting back, for allowing the attack to happen or for not feeling strong enough is also something that we also hear from callers that reach out to us. The thing is, however, that abuse has nothing to do with the victim! It’s about the abuser’s desire for power and control—as simple as that. No matter why it happens, abuse is not OK and it’s never justified. You are never too small to make a difference and you should not feel responsible for something that was never your fault in the first place.

To the many survivors out there, remember: you are not alone. We believe you, regardless of when and how you decide to speak your truth. We support you and are here for you whenever you feel like you want to talk—no matter when you decide to do so.

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Ways in Which Abuse Changes You (Tuesday, October 31st 2017)

 By Tatiana Shams, Content Manager

 There’s an undeniable truth that victims of abuse and domestic violence share: although you will come out victorious, you will not come out the same. Abuse changes you.

We hear stories about change from contacts all over the country who share their experiences with The Hotline. After surviving abuse, they usually tell us that they feel broken but hopeful; healed but scarred. It is the strange grey area in which change exists: an ever-present constant that allows us to move on with our lives even after experiencing tremendous amounts of pain and trauma.

These changes in yourself and the way you interact with the outside world might not be so apparent until you go about your day and start feeling amiss. You are still yourself and yet—you are not the same. And that is OK.

Here are some ways in which people can feel like their lives have changed after experiencing abuse and how to go about them:

  • Feeling easily overwhelmed, anxious irritated or crying without explanation: Places you used to love are now dull or noisy, and people whose company you used to enjoy are now irritating. That’s because after surviving an abusive situation, many people tend to find respite by isolating themselves from the world or the activities that were once meaningful to them. We know that although this might be a temporary fix, being reclusive is not a long-term solution because human beings are social creatures that need interaction with other people. If you notice that you start feeling overwhelmed or anxious around new people or in social situations after experiencing abuse, it may help to practice some self-care: try retreating to a quiet space where you can gather your thoughts and collect yourself. Try techniques such as breathing exercises that can help you calm down or practice some mindfulness! Observing the outside world, acknowledging that you are safe and that the abuse is in the past (where it belongs) can help you feel back to normal and at peace with yourself and with those around you.
  • Distrusting people in general or being uncomfortable if left alone with someone of the opposite sex: We hear from many of our contacts that after being in an abusive relationship they have a hard time building connections with other people and that trust (or lack thereof) becomes an issue. We’ve also heard from women callers, for example, that tell us how uncomfortable they feel if they find themselves in situations where they are surrounded by just men (think a random elevator stop, strangers sitting in a waiting room or meeting new coworkers or people at a party). If you find yourself being wary of others’ intentions toward you, know that you are not alone and what you feel is a completely normal reaction after surviving trauma. After all, you probably wouldn’t want to experience those feelings ever again! Remember to take it one day at the time. As your heart heals so will your ability to trust others. Don’t forget to be kind and patient with yourself while you become used to learning how to trust again.
  • Flashbacks of the abuse: Many people who have experienced domestic violence report having flashbacks of the abuse they’ve endured. These flashbacks are triggered by no apparent reason and can feel very vivid and realistic, making the survivor relive the pain experienced from the abusive situation, which can leave you feeling confused, isolated and like there’s something wrong with your head. Flashbacks or recurring memories are a symptom of PTSD, which is a mental and physical reaction to a traumatic event. We know that many survivors of abuse experience Complex PTSD because of the repetitive nature of intimate partner violence. Not all treatments for PTSD work the same for everyone, so you might have to try a few different things to see what works best for you. According to Psychology Today, there are several medical treatments such as medication, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing to treat PTSD. Other practices such as meditation, yoga, mindfulness, positive affirmations, breathing exercises and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also do wonders when trying to recover from an abusive relationship.
  • Ruminating words, thoughts and events: Rumination is when you become fixated over a word, problem or event and play it in a continuous loop over and over in your head. When people ruminate the words said by an abusive partner or replay the mental images about the distress they suffered, they can become agitated, hopeless and depressed—which is a complete disservice to their own healing process. If you feel like ruminating, make sure to stop yourself in your tracks. Go for a walk, call a friend or do an activity that completely interferes with the urge to mentally repeat the offending words or events. It takes practice to stop ruminating, but remember to be patient and gentle with yourself. If you are able to stop ruminating words and problems, you may feel less anxious, worried and more open to healing the wounds left by the abuse.

These are just some of the ways abuse can change a person, and as you can see, many of these changes are rooted in fear. And that is to be expected. Experiencing and surviving abuse can have such a profound impact on a person’s mind, body and soul. But there’s something quite unique about being broken: you are strong, resilient and one of a kind.

If you feel like talking more about the changes you may have endured, please call our advocates at The Hotline. We are only one call or chat away!

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Safety Planning for Family and Friends  (Thursday, October 5th 2017)

By Heather,  Advocate at The Hotline  

This post is meant for any family, friends or colleagues of survivors of intimate partner violence who are concerned for their own safety, and for survivors of domestic violence who are concerned for the safety of the people in their support system. 

Here at The Hotline we often hear from survivors who are afraid to leave their abusive partners because of the threats that have been made against their loved ones. Because abuse is all about power and control, as a relationship progresses abusive people tend to escalate the things they say and do to maintain the power they take from their partners, and that can include threats to hurt or even kill friends, family or co-workers.

It’s important to note that survivors can utilize this lethality assessment to learn what their individual risk of being killed by their partners may be. The language in the assessment is a bit dated, and very gendered–with men as the abuser and women as the victim–but we know that anyone of any gender can perpetrate abuse or be abused. The biggest threats for survivors are strangulation (10x more likely to be killed), the presence of a firearm (five times more likely), and if the abusive person is genuinely suicidal. It is not at all uncommon for an abusive person to threaten to kill themselves if they feel like they’re losing control over their partner, but they pose a serious risk to their victim if they have attempted suicide in the past, talk about a specific plan, or have access to a gun.

Domestic violence is the single biggest indicator of murder-suicides in the United States, and unfortunately, we’ve often seen that escalate to include survivors’ families, friends, and co-workers, or even strangers. The warning signs of suicidal thoughts can include seeking out lethal means, a preoccupation with death, expressing no hope for the future, self-loathing, self-hatred, getting their affairs in order/giving things away, saying goodbye, withdrawing from others, and self-destructive behavior. For adult women who are in a relationship with an abusive man femicide-suicide risk increases with:

  • gun ownership
  • threats with a weapon
  • threats to kill
  • a step-child in the home
  • estrangement

We know that when a survivor of abuse chooses to leave the relationship that (and pregnancy) is the most dangerous time for them, so we strongly encourage any survivors who are considering leaving to reach out to us via chat or phone to talk through a thorough, personalized safety plan. Friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and even strangers who are concerned about a survivor’s safety, or their own, are always welcome to call or chat with us too.

One of the most helpful things anyone who is concerned for their safety can do is to document the abuse or threats. Documentation of threats, damaged property or injuries can help if a restraining order is needed, with a custody case, or if someone decides to press charges. This website details how the laws around domestic violence and protective orders vary from state to state.

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Breaking Free from PTSD (Wednesday, October 4th 2017)

By: Lisette Johnson

For many, the beginning of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is experienced as an inexplicable feeling of dread, doom, fear or unidentifiable urgency. Unlike the movies and TV where logical connections are depicted, sometimes specific triggers are not always identifiable.

You may react to a smell, a sound, a color, the certain angle of light, but have no conscious association of why or what role those things play. To make matters worse, the inability to connect these triggers with actual memories can feel confusing and frightening.

When we experience trauma, our brains become micro-focused on what needs to be done next in order to survive. It could be escape (flight), defending (fight) or immobility (freeze). All other sensory input is put on the back burner while important resources are dedicated to surviving the threat. This can leave gaps in memory of details, although for some images remain vivid and unforgettable.

Because intimate partner violence is repetitive, layers of psychological, emotional, verbal or physical abuse compound, never allowing the mind to catch a break to properly process and heal the trauma from one traumatic event before there is another. This specific type of PTSD is called Complex PTSD and is common among survivors of abuse.

Since no two people are the same, PTSD symptoms vary from person to person and from day to day. Some may feel jumpy, irritable for no apparent reasons or become easily startled. Others try to avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma, like places and people or avoid talking about it.

Other signs of PTSD include disassociation (checking out), daydreaming or shutting down. Some experience emotionally paralyzing nightmares or become consumed by specific memories of the traumatic event playing in their minds over and over. Many experience hypervigilance or feeling like they are on high alert, mentally assessing danger in every-day situations like compulsively sitting next to exits or checking doors.

If these resonate with you, I’d like to share with you some simple ways to help minimize the effects of PTSD:

  • Accept: Acknowledge your feelings are real and valid. They are normal reactions to abnormal experiences. Cry. Grieve. Allow yourself time to heal.
  • Be kind to yourself: Avoid self-recrimination and negative self-statements, and instead, redirect thinking to how you are doing the best you can. Remember: abuse is NEVER the victim’s fault!
  • Create: Unlock your trauma through music, writing, coloring or art. The method and end result aren’t as important as the process. Just begin!
  • Practice self-care: Limit stress, eat regularly and try to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Get outside and get fresh air—even if it’s walking up the block on your lunch hour or after work.
  • Socialize: Initiate and maintain social contacts and get involved in hobbies and pleasurable activities. Resist the temptation to withdraw, isolate or numb with unhealthy habits.
  • Ground: If something triggers your memory regarding your past trauma, ground yourself. Stay present by observing details of your surroundings and mentally describing them as if writing a letter to a friend. Remind yourself of the time and day, month and year. Change positions, if possible change where you are, even just a room or go outside for air.
  • Seek: PTSD isn’t a mind-over-matter proposition. It’s a real and treatable condition and you don’t have to go it alone! Domestic violence, PTSD and therapeutic support groups, individual therapy and specialized treatments like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) are available and have successful outcomes.

PTSD can leave you feeling like you will never get better. But don’t despair. You can move through it and come out the other side. Wherever you are today is OK. You are and will continue to be OK. And remember, if you need someone to talk to, the advocates at The Hotline are always there to listen, 24/7 and every day of the year.

About Lisette Johnson:

Lisette Johnson is a survivor of an attempted intimate partner homicide/suicide. She has been a featured speaker at conferences and universities, appeared in numerous national online and print publications and has testified before Congress and the Virginia General Assembly. Learn more about her story at www.ShamelessSurvivors.com.

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Safety Planning With Sex Workers (Tuesday, August 15th 2017)

By Sarah, Advocate at The Hotline  

Sex worker” is a term used to refer to people who work in all aspects of the sex trades, indoor or street-based, legal and criminalized. Sex work can include people who trade sex for money as well as safety, drugs, hormones, survival needs like food shelter or clothing, or immigration status or documentation.

Anyone planning to leave an abusive relationship faces obstacles, both from their abuser and the lack of understanding about why people stay in abusive relationships. When the survivor of abuse is a sex worker, they may face even more challenges when planning to leave safely, access resources, or pursue legal action.

There are various types of sex work–from phone sex workers who never have any kind of physical contact with their clients to exotic dancers and to professional dominatrices who consensually push their clients to their mental and physical limits–and many reasons that a person may choose to engage in it. The reasons why people engage in sex work are varied. Like other fields of of labor some sex workers are unable to gain employment, while others may engage in sex work as a form of subsistence living, which is especially common among socially marginalized groups, including the LBGTQIA community; non-English speaking populations, including recent immigrants; and those with mental health issues.

At this time , most types of sex work are illegal or unregulated in the United States, therefore, a  survivor who is a sex worker may face very specific tactics of abuse by their partner. An abusive partner may threaten to call law enforcement on their partner, or interfere with their ability to go to work, or withhold money that the survivor has earned–which are forms of financial abuse. Survivors in abusive relationships may experience the same behaviors of an abusive relationship with non-sex workers but here are some additional behaviors they can experience:

Tactics of Abuse That May Specifically Affect Sex Workers

The specific types of abuse a survivor is facing should be taken into consideration when creating a safety plan. If the abusive partner is involved in arranging employment for the survivor, it may be financially challenging for the survivor to leave, but survivors are super creative and resilient. If the survivor works at a club or regular location, showing a photograph or giving a description, of the abusive partner to any security at the venue can be a good way of making sure an abuser does not disrupt the survivor’s work or intentionally cause them to lose employment. Some states offer address confidentiality programs, so that if a survivor moves, they can make sure their abuser does not find their new address through public records.

If possible, carpooling or using “the buddy system” when arriving to and leaving work is a valuable way of staying safer when an abusive partner resorts to stalking. Making sure that a trusted friend is always aware of where the survivor will be working is an easy method of staying safer. For example, apps like KiteString can make that process even simpler. Coming up with a code word that can be texted to that buddy in an emergency may also be useful:the buddy can come pick up the survivor or arrange transportation. Being familiar with the streets and neighborhood around where the survivor is working can be useful in planning for an emergency situation where a survivor must leave work immediately.

Sex workers may not want to involve law enforcement when dealing with an abusive situation, out of concern that they may be arrested themselves. Bias against sex workers might lead law enforcement to characterize domestic violence as “a trick gone bad” or otherwise attribute abuse to “workplace hazards,” rather than treat it as a crime. Law enforcement officials may also target sex workers, arresting them on vague charges like “loitering,” “lewdness” or “public nuisance,” in addition to charging them with statutes that specifically target sex workers. For instance, in New York state, as well as many others, it is legal for police and courts to use the possession of condoms as evidence of solicitation.

Social stigma against sex workers may also cause a survivor to hesitate to reach out to local resources like shelters, and some domestic violence organizations do discriminate against residents who break the law. Regardless of criminal history, anyone who is a survivor of abuse is legally entitled to protection under the law. All survivors deserve to be treated with respect, and believed. HIPS is a Washington, DC-based organization that provides support and information for people involved in the sex trade/exchange that may be a useful resource for survivor-sex workers. For all survivors of abuse or assault, self-care and counseling can be powerful methods of processing and overcoming trauma. This article from RAINN talks about  how to determine if a therapist is right for a survivor of sexual abuse/assault; while this one from our website has some suggestions for easy self-care.

Sex Trafficking

When someone is forced, coerced or threatened into sex work, they may be a victim of sex trafficking, and anyone under 18 who engages in sex work is considered a victim of trafficking under U.S. law. Sex traffickers may recruit victims by promising them lawful, paid work, often as models or dancers, but once lured into the situation, they are unable to access their earnings or stop doing sex work. If you suspect that you or a loved one might be a victim of sex trafficking, you can contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline and learn more about the signs of trafficking at Polaris Project.

If you are a sex worker or the loved one of a sex worker in an abusive situation,  our advocates are here to talk with you by chat and phone every day from 6am-2am CST. Chat with us online or call us at 1-800-799-7233 (1-800-787-3224 TTY).

Additional resources:

  • The HIPS Hotline helps those impacted by sexual exchange and/or drug use due to choice, coercion, or circumstance by phone, 24/7 at 1-800-676-HIPS
  • FORGE offers anti-violence support for members of the trans community and can supply referrals to local providers by phone at 1-414-559-2123
  • The Northwest Network and The Network/La Red provide support services to LGBTQIA+ survivors of sexual abuse and assault
  • The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) has a 24/7 hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) and also offers an online chat
  • After Silence and Pandora’s Project are useful websites offering support for survivors of sexual violence
  • Male Survivor is a great resource for male survivors of sexual abuse and assault
  • The Planned Parenthood Chatline offers support and education to anyone with questions or concerns about their reproductive health

The post Safety Planning With Sex Workers appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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Tips for Intervening If You Witness Domestic Violence (Tuesday, May 30th 2017)

Yellow background with a graphic of a grey eye and the words Witnessing Domestic ViolenceMore than 12 million people in the U.S. are affected by domestic violence each year. While domestic violence typically happens behind closed doors, in some cases it does happen in a public space or around friends or family members, meaning that other people may witness or be aware of the abuse. When we overhear or see something that doesn’t feel right, it can be difficult to know how to react. So, here are some tips and suggestions for what you might do to intervene and interrupt that violence.


If you witness abuse in public, it’s important to take into account your own safety as well as the survivor’s. There is safety in numbers, so gathering a group of people to stand nearby and either verbally or physically intervene is one option. Contacting the authorities is another option. You might even record the incident with your phone to pass to law enforcement if the survivor chooses to press charges (keep in mind, however, that some survivors choose not to take legal action).

If you’re hearing suspicious noises from your neighbors, one option is to speak with the survivor in person the next day. You might greet them with a question like, ”Hey, I heard some stuff last night. Are you okay?” Make sure to approach them in a safe, private space, listen to them carefully and believe what they have to say. Never blame them or ask what they did to “provoke” their partner. Let them know the abuse isn’t their fault, and that they deserve support. You might give them The Hotline’s contact information or direct them to a local crisis line. If you are ever concerned for the survivor’s immediate safety (or your own), you do have the right to contact the police. If the survivor decides to press charges against the abusive partner, your statement can be one way to help them document what they’ve experienced.

At The Hotline, we often hear from family members who want to physically remove the survivor from the abusive partner because they won’t leave themselves. We strongly discourage doing this because that action, like the abuse, encroaches on the survivor’s autonomy. It’s understandable to want to step in and take care of someone you love, but it is important to remember that they are the only person who can decide what is right for them; this is a choice they must make on their own. Abuse is so difficult to witness, but you can’t “save” them or “fix” the situation. The hardest thing to realize is that even with your help, some people won’t ever leave the relationship, and they do have the right to make that choice. You also have the right to express your concern, offer support, ask them to talk about a safety plan with you, and refer them to those who can help.

But, with all of that being said, it’s still important to have hope. On average, it takes domestic violence survivors seven times to leave the relationship for good, so if it’s physically and emotionally safe for you, try to continue offering support in any way you can. Believing and supporting them can be a major factor in helping them stay safe or helping them find empowerment to leave when they’re ready.

Is someone you know experiencing relationship abuse? We’re here to help! Call 1-800-799-7233 (24/7) or chat here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

The post Tips for Intervening If You Witness Domestic Violence appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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