The National Domestic Violence Hotline

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

The Hotline

Survivor Spotlight: “It Was Almost Too Late for Me” (Thursday, March 15th 2018)

Heather-Survivor-SeriesBy Michelle, Administrative Assistant and former Advocate at The Hotline

We are excited to bring back our Survivor Spotlight Series (formerly Survivor Series) with Heather, a 29yearold woman living in Tennessee who has been able to find a life free from abuse after contacting The Hotline. WarningThis story contains descriptions of severe physical violence that may be triggering for some readers. 

In 2007, Heather, then 19 years old, met a charming man who would soon become her boyfriend. Their relationship seemed great, but as soon as they moved in together, her partner became controlling and the two began fighting a lot. The first time he hit her, he apologized and the violence stopped—for awhile. The dynamic of their relationship gradually began to shift. Every time Heather disagreed with, questioned, or even had an opinion different than her partner’s, she would face violent consequences.

Heather’s partner engaged in emotionally abusive behaviors as well, telling her that the abuse was her fault, the sexual abuse and abandonment she experienced as a child were her fault, and that nobody would ever love her. “At first I didn’t believe it,” says Heather, “but eventually his words made sense because they gave an explanation for things I never understood.”

Pregnancy is one of the most dangerous times for survivors of abuse, and unfortunately that was true for Heather’s situation. Heather experienced two miscarriages because of the violence she was experiencing. During her third pregnancy, Heather was constantly sick, and the abuse continued. After she had her daughter, her husband’s behavior escalated. He chose what to name their daughter, made all the decisions surrounding her care, and even hit Heather while she was holding their baby. He bought a gun and slept with it under his pillow, even with their daughter in the bed. “He held it to my head so many times,” she told us. One day, Heather’s partner held her and her grandmother at gunpoint while he left with the child, eventually returning so she could breastfeed. “Multiple times I left, but every time he would go to my family’s house and threaten them or find me. I kept praying for him to change or for God to make a way out for me.”

Heather describes a situation in which others knew about the abuse, “People were afraid of him and even when they were around for it, they’d look the other way.” Her husband began seeing other women, and even brought them to their house (with their young daughter present) while Heather worked. In 2011, three years after her daughter was born, one of these women came to the house while Heather was home and the truth came out. “He flipped on her and then on me,” she says. “She called the police but it was almost too late for me.”

Heather’s partner broke her phone, as he had done many other times, and threw her face-first off their bed onto the floor, busting open her lip. He then poured rubbing alcohol into her mouth, forced her to swallow it, and held a knife to her throat while her daughter sat there, watching it all in tears. When her abuser found out that the cops were on their way, he locked himself in the bathroom with Heather, wrapping a beach towel around her head twice so her screams would not be heard. Fortunately, the police saw the light on, broke down the door, and arrested her partner that night.

Heather’s husband was affiliated with a gang, so she, determined to find a way out of her situation before he could send someone to come after her, decided to call The Hotline. Though the local shelter she connected to was full, they arranged for her to stay in a hotel for the night, provided her with personal hygiene supplies, and provided transportation to the shelter the next day. Ultimately, Heather sold everything she owned and left the area, living in three different shelters in a neighboring state to keep her and her daughter safe before eventually moving back home. Legal aid helped her file for divorce, and she has only seen her ex once since he was let out on probation after serving just nine months in prison. While he still tries to exert control by causing drama in her life, Heather has put up barriers from contact as a way to keep herself safer. Whereas in the past she had been unable to keep a steady job, Heather has been at her current position for three years, and is able to support her family.

Though she has been free from abuse for over five years and has since remarried to a loving, respectful man, there are still days when Heather struggles with those traumatic memories. However, she describes herself as a much stronger person now, and hopes her story will help other survivors feel empowered to leave their abusive situations, “I want them to know it’s not their fault and they can make it alone! Most people did not recognize what I was going through because I hid behind a smile. I was manipulated so badly by my ex-husband that I believed I deserved it, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has gone through that. No one deserves it. I left everything to get away, started over and rebuilt my life. I am living proof that you can get out and make it on your own.”

Thank you so much to Heather for sharing her experience with us and giving us permission to publish it here. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please call or chat with us today. Whether you are feeling strong enough to leave or want to explore how to stay safer in your relationship, our trained advocates are here 24/7/365 to provide support, guidance, and local resources.

Give a survivor a chance at life free from abuse today by donating to The Hotline.

The post Survivor Spotlight: “It Was Almost Too Late for Me” appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.


Pamela Anderson Supports National Domestic Violence Hotline (Tuesday, March 13th 2018)

Photograph of Hotline staff member Whitney Laas sitting at a desk next to actress Pamela Anderson as they look at a poster together
Pamela Anderson speaks with advocates during her visit to The Hotline in 2015.

Austin, Texas / Los Angeles, Calif. – Actress, author and philanthropist Pamela Anderson announced, today, the donation of $30,000 to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) on behalf of the Pamela Anderson Foundation. This marks the fourth year of the Pamela Anderson Foundation’s generous support of The Hotline. Anderson, who now spends most of her time raising funds for non-profit organizations worldwide, visited The Hotline’s headquarters in 2015 to present a $60,000 donation and hear firsthand how advocates are making a difference in the lives of those affected by abuse.

Anderson’s donation will support The Hotline’s work in educating and providing resources to family members affected by abusive relationships in the home, by providing emotional support, safety planning and local resources, such as legal advice and counseling.

Advocates from The Hotline often hear from victims and survivors whose abusive partners exploit their children as a tactic for control in the relationship. They work with victims and survivors to assess tactics that are used when there are young people in the home and provide safety-planning tips. They also coach families on how to communicate when alcohol and drug abuse are a factor.

Every day, advocates at The Hotline receive nearly 1,300 calls, chats and texts from victims, survivors and their friends and family seeking information about domestic violence. With one in four women, one in seven men and one in three teens experiencing physical, emotional or verbal abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetime, the need to provide resources and support for victims is critical.

“It’s a privilege to continue to support the important work of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, whose advocates I’ve had an opportunity to meet and hear from directly,” said Pamela Anderson, founder of The Pamela Anderson Foundation. “As a mother of two, I am particularly delighted to know that our donation will help ensure that families in need of both compassion and information will continue to find a 24/7, trusted resource in The Hotline.”

“Our everyday work is made possible by supporters like Pamela Anderson, and we are tremendously grateful for her partnership and generous contributions over the past four years,” said Katie Ray-Jones, chief executive officer of The Hotline. “The Foundation’s support significantly and positively impacts our ability to offer services and provide resources for parents who are experiencing abuse, which is critical to our mission.”

About the Pamela Anderson Foundation (PAF)
The Pamela Anderson Foundation supports organizations and individuals that stand on the front lines in the protection of human, animal, and environmental rights. By funding the efforts of those who inform and defend the planet and all who live within it, the Pamela Anderson Foundation is an agent of change, love and an advocate for justice. For more information, please visit https://www.pamelaandersonfoundation.org/paf/.

Connect with Pamela

About the National Domestic Violence Hotline
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a non-profit organization established in 1996 as a component of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Operating around the clock, confidential and free of cost, The Hotline provides victims and survivors with life-saving tools and immediate support. Callers to The Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) can expect highly trained advocates to offer compassionate support, crisis intervention information and referral services in more than 200 languages.  Visitors to TheHotline.org can chat live with advocates and they can find information about domestic violence, safety planning, local resources, and ways to support the organization.

The National Domestic Violence 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 90EV0426 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.

Supporting Resources

Press Contacts:
Kyrsten Aspegren, Edelman for The Hotline
NDVH@edelman.com / (512) 770-8036

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Mass Shootings Are A Domestic Violence Issue (Tuesday, February 27th 2018)

By Heather, Advocate

All of us at The Hotline were filled with a familiar mixture of heartbreak and outrage when we heard the tragic news of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School–the 18th school shooting of 2018. As the story unfolded in the coming days, it wasn’t shocking to us that the man who killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida was allegedly abusive to his past girlfriend. No other marker is as widely shared among men who carry out these kinds of atrocities as a history of violence towards their intimate partners.


Here at The Hotline, every time a mass shooting occurs, our advocates hear from survivors of abuse who are concerned that their boyfriends or husbands are capable of such large-scale violence; because in 98% of mass shootings the perpetrators are men. While we are able to encourage them to take steps such as reaching out to law enforcement and safety planning around having guns in their homes, the reality is that as long as an abuser has access to a firearm, they pose a very serious threat to survivors, their loved ones, and the lives of others in their communities. Regardless of your beliefs on guns, we can all agree that nobody deserves to live in fear of the horror their partner might cause out of a need for power and control, and everyone deserves to feel safe.

If you or someone you know is in a relationship that feels unsafe, especially if the abusive person has access to firearms, please call or chat with us whenever it’s safe to do so. We’re here 24/7/365. Our advocates can help you find local resources like shelters, counseling and legal help, and work with you to make a plan to keep yourself and your loved ones as safe as possible.

Wondering what you can do to create positive change around this issue?

  • Register to vote and show up on election day
  • Sign our petition to Support the Fix NICS 2017 Act to Keep Firearms Out of the Hands of Domestic Violence Perpetrators, which may be scheduled for a vote as early as this week
  • Contact your elected officials in support of other policy solutions The Hotline advocates for regarding firearms, such as:
    • For the definition of intimate partner violence to be expanded to include dating partners. Right now, current and former dating partners aren’t included.
    • For the crime of stalking to be added to the list of prohibitors that would prevent an abuser from having access to guns.
    • For guns to be temporarily removed when an ex parte order is issued. We know that one of the most dangerous times for a survivor is when they first leave. In cases where firearms are used as a threat, we know that the risk of lethality increases exponentially–by 500%.
  • Donate to The Hotline to help us continue supporting survivors and advocating for policy solutions on Capitol Hill
  • Support students everywhere planning to walk out of class on March 14th and April 20th until Congress takes real action to keep students safer from guns

The post Mass Shootings Are A Domestic Violence Issue appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.


Spread The Love (Wednesday, February 14th 2018)

It’s here! We’ve officially launched our #LoveBetter video and we need your help! Everyone deserves healthy relationships. Help us show the world what it really means to #LoveBetter this Valentine’s Day by sharing this video on social media and tagging others to do the same.

The post Spread The Love appeared first on The National Domestic Violence 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!

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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.

The post Why Didn’t You Say Anything? appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.


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!

The post Ways in Which Abuse Changes You appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.