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The National Domestic Violence Hotline

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

The Hotline

NDVH Annual Impact Report shows record-setting year (Wednesday, June 19th 2019)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 19, 2019 – The National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) received more calls, online chats, and texts, also known as “contacts”, in 2018 than in any other year since the organization’s inception according to internal data collection.  At a congressional briefing in the nation’s capital today, leaders and partners of The Hotline and its relationship abuse prevention project, loveisrespect, shared results of the organization’s annual impact report with legislators and their staff members. In A YEAR OF IMPACT: National Domestic Violence Hotline and loveisrespect  the organization reports it received 573,670 contacts from people affected by domestic violence (DV), an increase of 36% from 2017. Additionally, researchers saw a 48% increase in website visits to TheHotline.org and loveisrespect.org combined and a 147% increase in the number of people reaching out for help via chat.  These last two statistics indicate more victims, survivors, their helpers, and others are finding ways beyond the phone to secure the support and information they need.

Established in 1996 and headquartered in Austin, Texas, The Hotline is the only national 24-hour domestic violence hotline providing compassionate support, life-saving resources, and safety planning services via phone, online chat, and text. In 2007, The Hotline established loveisrespect, an initiative that engages, educates, and empowers young people to prevent and end abusive relationships.

Chief Executive Officer of The National Domestic Violence Hotline Katie Ray-Jones attributes the increase in contacts to media and pop culture’s focus on the pervasiveness of violence in relationships. “The report shows that together, The Hotline and loveisrespect received four times the increase in media coverage in 2018 as compared to 2017. With greater awareness of this issue that affects ¹one in four women and one in seven men, we’re seeing more people affected by abuse taking brave steps forward and seeking support. It’s important we continue to shine a light on domestic violence. We all play a role in ending it.”

According to the report, the number one resource referral type in 2018 fell under the category of legal resources. If and when they decide to leave their abusive partner, many victims want to know what their rights and protections are in their cities and states. In 2018, advocates provided 156,157 referrals to shelter and domestic violence service providers and 213,926 referrals to additional resources across the nation. WomensLaw.org and the Legal Resource Center on Violence Against Women are two of the top resources provided. 

One of The Hotline’s expert advocates, Alexis, is on the front lines answering the calls for support. During the briefing, she shared what her work day is like. She talked about the feeling she gets knowing that she’s helping to equip victims with the tools they’ll need to find safety and that she’s empowering them with hope. “I appreciate the opportunity to be on the other end, helping and spreading awareness on domestic violence and the different types of abuse. It’s our job to offer compassionate support and walk victims through their options, whether it be for shelter or legal services or counseling services.” 

The 2018 Impact Report by the numbers:

  • 22% (similar to 2017) reported that their abusive situation involved children
  • 13,625 victims experienced stalking
  • 7,482 cited suicidal threats from their abusive partners
  • 4.7% (up 1.1% from 2017) of victims disclosed the use or threat of firearms
  • 4,565 victims experienced threats related to immigration status

Types of domestic violence and dating abuse most discussed in contacts (calls, chats, texts) with The Hotline and loveisrespect:

  • Emotional Abuse: 88% (up 2% from 2017) reported some type of emotional and verbal abuse.  Emotionally abusive partners often exert power and control over their partners by limiting who their partners see, what they do, and where they go. They instill shame and fear and often demean their partners with insults, threats, and punishments that slowly eat away at their partner’s self-worth. Emotional abusers may prevent their partners from making decisions, and sometimes they prevent them from working outside of the home or seeing family and friends – isolating them.
  • Physical Abuse: 60% (no change from 2017) reported some type of physical abuse such as hitting, biting, and choking.  Physical abuse is often what most people think about when we use the term domestic violence.
  • Financial Abuse: 24% (up 2% from 2017) reported their abusers were stealing money or limiting access to money, using their partner’s credit cards or forcing their partners to co-sign on lines of credit. Some forced their partners to open joint accounts and preventing them from opening separate accounts or having access to their own money.
  • Digital Abuse: 15% (up 3% from 2017) reported digital abuse including using GPS or a phone to stalk their partners or track their travel, sending relentless text messages, closely monitoring computer use and using cameras in the home to monitor activities. The digital abuse category adapts as innovations in technology expand.
  • Sexual Abuse: 11% (up 1% from 2017) reported that abusive partners may do things such as forcing unwanted sexual activity, involving other people in sexual activities without permission, forced viewing of pornography or demanding their partner wear sexually explicit clothing.

For more information on the 2018 Impact Report and The National Domestic Violence Hotline, please visit www.thehotline.org. Follow The Hotline on Facebook, on Twitter @ndvh, and on Instagram @ndvhofficial. Visit www.loveisrespect.org and follow loveisrespect on Facebook, on Twitter @loveisrespect, and on Instagram @loveisrespectofficial.

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2019 Advocate Survey Press Releas (Tuesday, June 11th 2019)

ADVOCATES RELEASE NATIONWIDE SURVEY ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, SEXUAL ASSAULT REPORTING BY IMMIGRANTS
Majority of advocates, attorneys report immigrant survivors are fearful of police
On June 4, 2019, seven national organizations – Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence (APIGBV), ASISTA, Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV), National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH), National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), and the Tahirih Justice Center – released the results of a nationwide survey of advocates and attorneys on the fears and concerns of immigrant survivors in reporting domestic violence and sexual assault. “This survey shows us the grave chilling effect that recent immigration policy changes are having on immigrant survivors of violence,” said Archi Pyati, Chief of Policy for the Tahirih Justice Center. “This is the message they are receiving: either stay with your abuser or risk deportation.” A total of 575 victim advocates and attorneys in 42 states, one U.S. territory, and the District of Columbia completed the survey and reported how changing immigration policies affect the concerns of service providers and the fears of immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The survey findings showed that 59 percent of respondents observed an increase in the number of immigration-related questions that their agencies were receiving from immigrant survivors. Survivors of domestic and sexual violence already face difficult challenges in escaping and overcoming abuse. The current environment creates even higher barriers in getting help, and emboldens abusers to continue to act without repercussions,” said Grace Huang, Policy Director at the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence. The survey revealed that 52% of advocates have worked with immigrant survivors who decided to drop civil or criminal cases because they were fearful to continue with their cases. This demonstrates an increase compared to a previous survey conducted in 2017. Additionally, three out of four service providers responding to the survey reported that immigrant survivors had concerns about going to court for a matter related to the abuser/offender. Finally, 76 percent of advocates reported that immigrant survivors have shared concerns about contacting police. “If immigrants are too afraid to call the police or go to court because of fear of deportation, they become more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation,” said Rosie Hidalgo, Senior Director of Public Policy for Casa de Esperanza: National Latina Network. “This undermines victim safety as well as public safety and is contrary to our nation’s commitment to affording protections for all survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.”

Current immigration policies, including increased entanglement of local and state law enforcement with federal immigration enforcement efforts, tightened eligibility for legal protections, a narrowed pathway to asylum, and expanded deportation priorities have had a significant impact on the climate of fear affecting immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and has undermined their access to safety and justice. “While deeply unsettling, it comes as no surprise that a huge majority (76%) of immigrant survivors are hesitant to reach out to the police for assistance,” said Qudsia Raja, Policy Director, National Domestic Violence Hotline. “This trend is consistent with what advocates at The Hotline have been hearing on the lines over the past several years. We have serious concerns that reasonable fears of detention, deportation, or family separation is causing immigrant survivors to stay in increasingly dangerous relationships.” Congress created important protections for immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in the express recognition that perpetrators often exploit a victim’s lack of immigration status as a tactic of abuse. The U and T visa program in VAWA was created to “strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to detect, investigate, and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking… and other crimes created against aliens, while offering protection to victims of such offenses in keeping with the humanitarian interests of the United States.” “Established federal law has been lifesaving for survivors of violence. It is vital that these protections remain available to ensure that survivors can flee and rebuild their lives,” said Monica McLaughlin, Director of Public Policy at the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “Abusers often use the threat of deportation against immigrant survivors as a means to maintain power and control. When survivors fear that reaching out to services and institutions like the courts will lead to their deportation or separation from their families, this weakens public safety and existing laws designed for their protection, while at the same time strengthens the threats of abusers and perpetrators of crime.” said Cecelia Friedman Levin, Senior Policy Council at ASISTA. “If we are serious about addressing the epidemic of sexual violence in our country, we must create safe avenues for immigrant survivors to come forward and receive help,” said Terri Poore, Policy Director at the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence. “It is deeply alarming that so many immigrant survivors suffer fear of deportation in addition to the trauma of sexual violence.” Read the Survey Key Findings report to learn more about the results of the 2019 Advocate and Legal Service Survey Regarding Immigrant Survivors. For comment on this topic, please contact Pegah Nabili at pegahn@tahirih.org, Grace Huang at ghuang@api-gbv.org, or Monica McLaughlin at communications@nnedv.org.

Partner agencies include:

The Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence is a national resource center on domestic violence, sexual violence, trafficking, and other forms of gender-based violence in Asian and Pacific Islander communities. The Institute serves a national network of advocates and community-based service programs that work with Asian and Pacific Islander and immigrant survivors, and is a leader on providing analysis and advocacy on critical issues facing victims in the Asian and Pacific Islander and immigrant communities. The Institute leads by promoting culturally relevant intervention and prevention, expert consultation, technical assistance and training; conducting and disseminating critical research; and informing public policy.

ASISTA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that provides national leadership, advocacy, training, and technical assistance to those working with crime survivors seeking secure immigration status, especially those who have suffered gender-based violence. To learn more about ASISTA, visit www.asistahelp.org.

Casa de Esperanza is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that seeks to mobilize Latinas and Latino communities to end domestic violence. Founded in 1982 in Minnesota to provide emergency shelter for women and children experiencing domestic violence, in 2009 Casa de Esperanza launched the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities. The National Latin@ Network is a national institute focused on preventing and addressing domestic violence in Latino communities, providing national training and technical assistance, policy advocacy and research. To learn more about the organization, please visit casadeesperanza.org and nationallatinonetwork.org.

The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) is the voice in Washington for the 56 state and territorial sexual assault coalitions and 1300 rape crisis centers working to end sexual violence and support survivors. The local rape crisis centers in our network see every day the widespread and devastating impacts of sexual assault upon survivors and provide the frontline response in their communities advocating for victims, spreading awareness and prevention messages, and coordinating with others who respond to these crimes.

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 through its text, chat, and phone services. Contacts 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 Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that serves as a leading national voice for domestic violence victims and their allies. NNEDV’s membership includes all 56 state and territorial coalitions against domestic violence, including over 2,000 local programs. NNEDV has been advancing the movement against domestic violence over 25 years, having led efforts among domestic violence advocates and survivors in urging Congress to pass the landmark Violence Against Women Act of 1994. To learn more about NNEDV, please visit NNEDV.org.

The Tahirih Justice Center is the only national, multi-city organization providing both policy advocacy and direct, on the ground holistic legal and social services to immigrant and refugee women and girls fleeing violence. Tahirih will continue to monitor policy shifts that impact women and girls fleeing violence and advocate for the United States to honor its legal obligations to protect those fleeing human rights abuses.

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Polyamory and Abuse (Thursday, May 30th 2019)

by Melissa, a Hotline Advocate  

Abuse can happen in any relationship, whether you have one partner, two partners, or even more. A polyamorous or non-monogamous relationship is not any more likely to be abusive than a monogamous one. Even though poly relationships are not inherently abusive, having multiple partners can create unique situations that abusive people may exploit. As with any relationship, open and honest communication, trust, respect, and equality are what keep these unions healthy. That said, considering these types of relationships exist outside of traditional norms, we may not have as clear of an idea of what a healthy open or poly relationship should look like, making it tougher to identify unhealthy or abusive behaviors.  

It’s important to remember that you always have the right to determine if an open or poly relationship is right for you. There are numerous reasons why people may choose to open their relationship, but it’s important that you are able to discuss those reasons/desires in an honest, nonconfrontational way with your partner so you can design the style of non-monogamy that works for both of you. This ensures you’re both on the same page moving forward. Making sure your existing relationship is strong and healthy before bringing other people in is another key component for negotiating non-monogamy. When you’re working from a place of instability or have unresolved issues, adding to that will likely put more pressure on those weak spots; and if the underlying relationship can’t support the weight, the whole thing will crack.   

If you’re currently in a monogamous relationship and you and your partner are considering polyamory, here are some warning signs that the relationship may be starting out on an unhealthy note, and opening it up to additional partners may exacerbate an unhealthy dynamic:  

  • Your partner has cheated and decides they want to open things up as a result. The decision to open up a relationship should never be made solely by one person, and nobody should be forced into opening up a relationship if they’re not comfortable doing so. Coercing you into accepting a relationship model you may not want creates a clear power and control imbalance, which can lead to abuse. This sort of reasoning also ignores the fact that your partner violated a boundary of your relationship. When trust has been broken like that, it’s important to decide if the two of you want to move forward and work on repairing that trust, or if it’s time to end the relationship altogether. Trust is an integral part to any healthy relationship, and even more so as you work toward non-monogamy. Trust takes time to establish, and it is so crucial for partners to feel secure with one another. When people continue a relationship that has no trust, it can often lead to issues like paranoia, jealousy, unhappiness, and even controlling behavior. 
  • Your partner wants to be non-monogamous but doesn’t want you to have sex with or date anyone else. Establishing expectations and boundaries can be useful as you move toward nonmonogamy. However, the goal of these boundaries should not be to control your behavior or limit you in a way you don’t agree with. Healthy relationships are based in equality and ultimately, each person in the relationship should feel heard and respected. When working out the structure of your non-monogamous relationship, you should feel comfortable taking both of your desires/needs into consideration, finding an option that works for both of you. If your partner is only willing to talk about the possibility of them being open, but you aren’t “allowed to,” that’s a red flag to an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Your partner should not feel like they have the power to dictate those kinds of terms to you or determine what you can/cannot do.  
  • You feel like you need to open up your relationship in order to keep it going. Choosing to explore an open relationship should be a decision you and your partner come to together after a lot of thought and communication around why it would be beneficial, what your desires are, what you’re hoping to achieve, etc. If your partner brings up the option of non-monogamy as a demand or stipulation for the relationship to continue, then that’s cause for concern. Your partner should never make you feel like you must bend over backwards to fulfill their desires, especially if it is something you aren’t comfortable with. The notion that we should set aside what we want and what makes us happy to solely focus on the other person’s needs is not healthy; all that does is create inequality in the relationship and shifts the balance of power to one person when it should be equal. 

If those situations above do not apply to you, then it is very possible to move forward on this healthy poly relationship path! As you and your partner are considering and exploring opening up your relationship, there are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Boundaries are helpful and healthy! Remember that everyone has a right to set their own personal boundaries and you should feel comfortable being able to discuss those with your partner without them getting upset. Establishing healthy boundaries recognizes that you are an individual with your own wants, needs, and values that should be respected by your partner and vice versa. It’s important to understand that your boundaries can be fluid as the relationship evolves, so being able to actively communicate with your partner about that is key. There is no One Right Way to be non-monogamous; this is about what works for you and your partner. Once you and your partner have talked honestly about what you want and what your concerns are, it can be helpful to write down your boundaries or and expectations to ensure you’re both on the same page. This gives you something to reference later if/when things change or need to be adjusted.  
  • Expect that things will be different. Choosing to open your relationship will most likely change it in some ways and that’s okay. You’re moving from a relationship that only involves two people to one that has three, or four, or more. This shift will impact how you and your initial partner relate to one another. Chances are you’ll talk more, find ways to be more open, and develop a deeper level of trust. Also, expect to be flexible. No matter how much we plan ahead, things won’t always work out the way we want them to and it’s important to be able to adapt as things come up.  
  • Jealousy and insecurity may arise. These are tricky feelings, and they often have a very negative impact on a relationship. If these feelings do come up, what matters is each person is able to address those feelings in an honest and respectful way. If the issues can’t be worked through or have become overwhelming, it’s okay to take a step back and re-evaluate whether this is the right arrangement for you. In any relationship, jealousy should never be used as an excuse for control. A common reaction to those kinds of feelings can be to put new “rules” into place, but this isn’t very helpful as it doesn’t address those emotions or get to the root of what may be causing them. If you’re noticing that your partner never “likes” any of your other partner(s), or that fights with this partner tend to force you to cancel dates with another partner, that’s a big red flag. Trying to control access to your other partner(s) can breed isolation, and when this type of behavior becomes a pattern, its considered abuse. As with any kind of relationship, abusive behaviors can be subtle so knowing what kinds of red flags to look out for can be helpful when making the transition to non-monogamy. Ultimately, it’s never ok for your partner to control your life in any way especially under the guise of an open relationship.  
  • Mistakes will happen. Navigating a new type of relationship can be a learning experience, and it’s likely that mistakes will occur. How you choose to react to and recover from those mistakes is important. If you’re finding that every time a mistake is made, it’s used as an excuse for your partner to impose control over you, that’s concerning. It’s important to be aware of ‘shifting goalposts’, where there are any number of perceived mistakes that your partner attempts to punish you for in some way. When the rules seem to be different on any given day and you don’t always know what they are, it can be difficult to navigate non-monogamy successfully. This is where having something written down can be helpful as it gives you both something to refer back to and change as needed. That being said, having a document or certain rules in place shouldn’t be something your partner holds over your head or uses as an excuse to shame you for making a mistake. Messing up doesn’t inherently make you a ‘bad’ person or completely untrustworthy moving forward, and it’s never ok for your partner to make you feel that way. On the other side of that, be wary if you’re finding that your partner makes the same ‘mistake’ over and over again. When something happens that goes against what you’d agreed on together or crosses established boundaries, you’ve been able to talk openly about ways to move forward, and yet it keeps happening- that’s a sign that your partner isn’t respecting you or the relationship. Intentionally doing what they want, regardless of the boundaries established, and constantly apologizing after the fact, shifts the balance of power to their favor since they know they are making their feelings the priority in the moment and asking for forgiveness later.   
  • Self-care is still important and necessary! In a non-monogamous relationship, engaging in more intimate relationships might leave less time to spend with friends or engaging in hobbies. It is still important to make time for yourself, and to have friends and interests outside of your relationships in order to stay healthy. It can be especially valuable to create a self-care routine for nights when your partners have dates but you do not, to help combat any feelings of jealousy or loneliness. Try to plan ahead and spend the evening with friends or snuggle up at home with a favorite movie or a beloved pet. Journaling during this down-time can be a wonderful form of self-care. Keeping a journal to track your thoughts and feelings about your intimate relationships can help you communicate your needs more clearly and will also help you to be aware of any unhealthy or abusive patterns that might be showing up.  

If you’re currently in a poly relationship and, as you read this, you’re realizing the relationship may be unhealthy or abusive, here are some things to consider:  

  • A support network is valuable. Engaging in non-monogamous relationships can sometimes create a built-in support network of intimate partners and metamours (the partner of your partner, with whom one does not share a romantic relationship, but may have a friendship). If you are concerned that one of your partners is abusive and have good relationships with other intimate partners and metamours, that may be a good source of emotional support. Consider asking the people in your support network to help you make a plan to safely leave, if you’re ready to take that step.  
  • Isolation is a common tactic of abuse. In a non-monogamous relationship, an abusive partner may try to turn the victim against metamours or prevent them from having relationships with metamours in the first place. Additionally, an abusive person may try to convince the victim to leave other existing intimate relationships or to cut off unsupportive family members. A manipulative partner may have already told everyone in their intimate circle that the victim is the abusive one, in order to cut of support. Some might believe that the poly relationship style is to blame for the abuse, but that is not the case. Abuse is never excusable in any circumstances, and it is absolutely possible to have a healthy non-monogamous relationship. 
  • There is often overlap between the poly community and the LGBTQ communityWith this overlap, we may see similar abusive tactics. An abusive partner may threaten to “out” you as non-monogamous to family members or colleagues, or they might say that if you were really polyamorous you wouldn’t feel jealous, have boundaries, feel hurt by cheating or other broken relationship agreements, etc. Someone who is abusive may also manipulate members of the larger polyamory community by generating sympathy and trust or blame the victim for the abuse in order to cut off these resources to the victim. 
  • A safety plan can be beneficial, and our advocates can help! Safety planning can look different depending on the situation and the people involved. In a poly relationship, a safety plan might mean reaching out to friends or family members outside the polyamory community, if the abusive partner has turned the community against you; or, if it feels safe to do so, reaching out to leaders in the larger community to let them know what is happening could be an option. If you don’t feel safe reaching out to people within your social circle, our hotline advocates are here to help. We’re a free, confidential, anonymous service that offers phone and online chat options, 24/7. Our advocates can assist you with creating a safety plan.  

The post Polyamory and Abuse appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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

by Adam R., a Hotline advocate 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Forgiveness (Friday, March 1st 2019)

by Aris, a Hotline advocate 

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

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

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

Ok, you’re safe… now what? 

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

Why should I consider forgiveness? 

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

Won’t forgiveness let the abuser off the hook?   

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

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

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

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

What does the forgiveness process look like  

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

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

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

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

by Krysten, a Hotline Advocate 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Manipulation Prevents Problem-Solving  

by Mindy, a Hotline Advocate 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stalking Safety Planning (Friday, January 25th 2019)

by Dana, a Hotline Advocate 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safety planning tips for on-line stalking include:  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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