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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 horrible behavior is to believe and accept you’re not worthy of anything else. By the time we allow our spouse or partner to physically abuse us, we at some point in our lives or in our relationship have bought into the lie that we are not worthy of respect and adoration, and resigned ourselves to a false perspective of love.

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 have to leave. That is not love. Love is not violent. Love is kind.

Abuse in any form isn’t part of the love journey. It’s the first exit.

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.

The post Breaking Free from PTSD appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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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

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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.

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When Your Family Member is Abusing Their Partner (Wednesday, May 24th 2017)

Green background with a silhouette of a person in the foreground watching a coupleBy Anitra, youth organizer at The Hotline and loveisrespect

At The Hotline, we talk a lot about how to support someone you care about if they are being abused. But what if the person you care about is the one who is being abusive toward their partner? What if they’re a member of your own family?

This can be an incredibly difficult situation to deal with. You might love your family member, but you know that what they’re doing is harmful. You may not want to admit that it’s happening, or you may just feel like cutting them out of your life. These are all normal reactions. Relationships with family members can be complicated, and if someone is behaving abusively, that makes things even more complicated.

It’s important to remember that you have the power to be an active bystander. Ultimately, your family member is the only person who can choose to stop the abuse, but there are a few things you can do to encourage them to behave in healthier ways.

Educate yourself on the dynamics of domestic violence and abuse. Abuse is about power and control, and the signs are not always obvious. Learning the warning signs of abuse can help you help your family member identify their abusive and unhealthy behaviors. If you witness behaviors that you feel are unhealthy or abusive, try not to be silent about them. You might say things like, “I don’t think it’s healthy to talk to your partner that way,” or “If you care about someone, I think you should treat them with respect.”

Avoid blaming the victim or excusing abusive behavior. If you witness the abuse, or if your family member tells you about a time they behaved abusively, try not to place blame on their partner or make excuses for the abuse. For example, avoid saying things like, “Well, what did they do to make you act that way?” or “You couldn’t help it.” There is no excuse for abuse; it is a choice, and it’s one that no one has to make. Although you may care about your family member, it’s important to focus on identifying the abusive behaviors. Even if their partner stays in the relationship, that doesn’t mean they deserve to be abused. Remember, you’re not turning against your family member. You’re just trying to help them have a healthier relationship.

Realize that you can’t make them change. You can’t “save” or “fix” another person. It’s up to them to decide that they want to change. Acknowledging that their behavior is abusive is the first step, and change can be a long and difficult process. Encourage them to seek professional help or to reach out to a confidential, non-judgmental hotline. Remind them of the effects that their abusive behaviors are having on their partner and their family. And remember, your family member’s decision to be abusive is not a reflection on you.

Practice Self-Care. It can be very difficult knowing that someone you care about is an abusive partner. You might feel stressed or emotionally drained, and that’s totally normal. You have the right to take a step back from the situation when you need to and practice lots of self-care! By self-care, we mean doing things you enjoy or that help you feel calm and relaxed. Your own wellbeing is important, and you can’t put energy into supporting others if you aren’t taking care of yourself.

If someone you know is being abusive, we are 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.

 

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When an Abusive Partner Ends the Relationship (Thursday, May 11th 2017)

abusive-partner-ends-relationshipBy Nicole H., a Hotline advocate

“There are things that can bond stronger than love, and that’s trauma… his exit was just one more way she was walked on.” – Lundy Bancroft

When talking about domestic violence, most people assume that the survivor will be the one who will take steps to leave the relationship. After all, most abusive partners do not want to give up the control they have over their partners and will attempt to keep them in the relationship as long as possible. But in some cases, it’s actually the abusive partner who ends the relationship and leaves.

If this has happened to you, you may be thinking, “What just happened?” When someone ends a relationship with you, it can feel like a rejection of who you are and your worth as a person. Adding an abusive partner to the mix can magnify this pain, if not cause real trauma. According to author Lundy Bancroft, survivors in this position “experience the abuser’s departure as one final slap in the face following a long line of previous ones” and are left “feeling even more humiliated and unlovable.” Maybe your abusive partner truly wanted to change, and they left out of concern for your safety. But, chances are they were using their leaving as a final tactic to hurt you on purpose.

This has nothing to do with what you deserve or how much you’re worth. The abuse you experienced during the relationship was never your fault. This final abusive act isn’t your fault, either. This is hard, but you are not alone.

Leaving Isn’t the Only Thing That Hurts

Maybe you put a lot of time and love into the relationship. Perhaps there are children involved, and you feel the loss of the family you wanted to keep. Maybe others in your community made you feel like the abuse was your fault (it wasn’t). Maybe you didn’t get the support or legal assistance that you needed and deserved. Maybe your partner isolated you to the point where you lost connections with friends, family and even yourself. All of these factors can compound the pain of being left by your partner. Your ex-partner’s rejection or abuse may have turned everything in your life upside down for now. But in this break, a new door can be opened to endless possibilities of the happiness, love and respect you always deserved. Healing can take a lot of time and effort, but it is possible. This can be the start of your journey towards a happier and safer life!

Why Am I the One Suffering?

You have already been through so much pain in your relationship. Now that it’s over, you’re still feeling pain. Why? Part of the reason is likely because you cared deeply about your partner and your relationship. Loving an abusive partner isn’t uncommon, strange or wrong. And it’s never easy to deal with the end of a relationship, whether it was abusive or not.

Also, many survivors talk about their struggles with recovering after their abusive partner leaves because they believe that their partner is not suffering at all. Maybe they’ve even moved on to someone new. This may feel terribly unfair or disheartening, but it’s important to remember that they are not “better off,” happier, or “fixed.” They are still exactly who they were when they left you. Their “love” was not loving or safe; they hurt you on purpose. You deserve to be with someone who treats you with respect and kindness. Whatever your ex-partner’s life may seem like now, it does not change how amazing and full your life can be now that they’re gone.

Tips for Healing and Recovery

As impossible as it might seem at the moment, your life will move forward and things will get better. To help you on this journey, we have some tips for healing and recovery that have worked well for many survivors:

  • Trust yourself. Know that the pain you went through and are going through is real and not your fault.
  • Be patient with yourself. We all heal at different times and in different ways. Healing often takes longer than anyone wishes it would. It is a process!
  • Allow yourself to feel your emotions. You may be feeling a lot of emotions: sadness, anger, loss, resentment, frustration, confusion, fear, love, relief, loneliness, hope. These feelings are normal, and it’s important to allow yourself to work through them. Being present and getting through this rough patch means you are that much closer to a healthier, more peaceful life. If you ever feel like your emotions are too much to handle, you deserve to seek support. Trusted friends, family members, a counselor or therapist, hotlines, support animals, or support groups are all good options. Try to remember: you can and will get through this.
  • Practice self-care. Anything you can do to show yourself the love you always deserved, calm yourself, or even distract yourself in healthy ways can really help. If self-care feels like too much to think about, or you feel like you don’t even know what you enjoy anymore, Scarleteen has a great list of ideas! If you enjoy journaling, check out these tips from Your Life Your Voice. Reading books, watching funny movies, moving your body in ways that feel good to you, meditating, learning a new skill, or just getting back into a regular meal routine are all great ways to take care of yourself, too.
  • Block and shut down triggers. Try to identify the things that remind you of the relationship or trigger negative feelings. These can include old meeting spots, songs, or items in your home. Do your best to avoid them or rid yourself of them as you heal. If you’re following your ex-partner on social media, you might consider unfollowing them or blocking them from your feeds. You might be tempted to check their Facebook or other social media accounts for updates, and that feeling is normal. But, take a deep breath and remind yourself that it will likely not make you feel better. It’s difficult to move on from someone and put them in your past when they are still an active part of your present. Continuing to look at their pages and accounts will only keep them a part of your present. With time and practice, you can stop giving them your energy. Consider changing your number and locks, if necessary. Also, you have the right to avoid being around people who don’t make you feel comfortable and supported. This is you getting your control and power back. That is huge!
  • Change it up. Whether it is your looks, routine, or even your environment, consider making changes that represent this new and endlessly loving start of your life.
  • Above all, be gentle with yourself. If you end up back in contact or even back together with your ex-partner, that doesn’t mean you failed or are to blame at all. It’s also important to recognize that, even if your abusive partner left you first, it doesn’t mean you’re weak or that you could not have left them at some point. Abuse is difficult to recover from for anyone. There are many reasons why a person might stay with or return to an abusive partner. No matter what, know that you deserve to be safe and happy, always.

Remember, this is not your final destination. Take things one day at a time. You can be happy and safe again – if not happier than ever.

If you need support, resources or just someone to talk to about your relationship, Hotline advocates are here for you 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 or via online chat from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time.

The post When an Abusive Partner Ends the Relationship appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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Behind the Screens: Key Copier Apps (Thursday, April 27th 2017)

Key copier apps and domestic violence: image of a cellphone with a key on its screen on a dark blue backgroundThis is a post in our Behind the Screens series, which explores issues related to digital abuse. This post was contributed by Eleanor, a Hotline advocate

As technology continues to make our lives more accessible and seamless, it’s always important to be aware of how it can also be used for potential abuse. In our previous Behind the Screens posts, we’ve discussed ways that computers, mobile devices and spyware can be used to manipulate, control and/or stalk a victim. Now, there are apps – such as the KeyMe App – that could allow an abusive partner to enter your home without your consent.

According to the Stalking Resource Center, “stalkers often use technology to assist them in stalking their victims.” At The Hotline, we know that abusive partners use a variety of tactics, including the use of technology, to intimidate or control their partners. Though the intended purpose of key copier apps is to ease the frustration of losing one’s keys or getting locked out of one’s home, it’s important to be aware of their existence and how they could be used by an abusive partner. For example, with the KeyMe app, anyone with an account can photograph your keys using the app and store photographic copies of them in their digital cloud to print keys as desired, thus allowing access to your personal spaces.

How can you tell if copies of your keys have been made?
If you suspect that someone has entered your home, vehicle or personal spaces, it is possible that you are correct. A spokesperson for the KeyMe app says that the amount of data they collect from account users can help identify anyone using their platform maliciously. However, if you suspect that your keys have been copied, it may be best to contact local law enforcement first.

You might also consider the following tips for increasing your security:

  • Keep your keys in a secure place at all times
  • Change locks and keys to your personal spaces, including your home, vehicle, office, etc.
  • Have personal and confidential mail routed to a USPS P.O. Box
  • Install a deadbolt, keypad lock, home security alarm and/or cameras in your home
  • Take photos of your personal spaces before you leave your home to compare upon your return
  • If you feel safe doing so, share photos of your abusive partner and/or stalker with your neighbors. Ask them to report to authorities if they notice any suspicious activity around your property and/or home when you are away
  • Turn off location services/GPS on your cell phones, tablets and all social media pages. Do not check in on social media apps with your whereabouts or let people know on social media platforms that you will be leaving town on vacation, etc.

If you believe you are being monitored, or even if you’re not sure, try to find a safe phone or computer and call us at 1-800-799-7233 or chat online 24/7/365. (El chat en español está disponible de 12-6 p.m. Hora Central). We can help you make a safety plan and direct you to local resources.

Additional Resources:

The post Behind the Screens: Key Copier Apps appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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