The National Domestic Violence Hotline is devastated by the back-to-back acts of violence that have occurred in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas. We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the victims of these mass shootings, and we urge Congress to take bold actions to prevent future incidents of mass violence.
Attacks like these are often fueled by xenophobia and are part of a larger, global narrative of violence rooted in white nationalism focused on targeting marginalized communities. The dangerous rhetoric used towards these communities is fueling violence — and it must stop.
The Hotline is no stranger to understanding the dangers of gun violence. We know that the presence of a gun in a home increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent. Research shows that previous abuse in a relationship is the greatest determining factor in murder/suicides. And we know that mass shooters often have a history of violence against women, ranging from domestic violence to stalking to gendered harassment. The Hotline calls for immediate, comprehensive action to curb gun violence: we need to ban militarized weapons, close the ‘boyfriend’ loophole and keep guns out of the hands of all abusers, and direct funds to gun violence prevention efforts in the communities most impacted by violence.
The world we envision is one where all relationships are free from violence. We cannot move towards that vision without urgent, tangible action from our Members of Congress. We urge you to do the right thing and act immediately.
“The National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) and its dating abuse, prevention, and education project for youth, loveisrespect, is authorized through the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA). For more than 21 years, FVPSA has provided critical funding that has allowed us to answer more than five million calls, texts, and chats from people affected by intimate partner violence,” said Katie Ray-Jones, chief executive officer of The Hotline. “Millions of survivors depend on our organization for resources and support, and the successful reauthorization of FVPSA with key improvements will ensure that we are able to continue to provide this life-saving support to survivors. We commend Sen. Casey and Sen. Murkowski for their continued commitment to all survivors through the introduction of the bipartisan Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvements Act of 2019.”
FVPSA is the nation’s only dedicated source of funding for domestic violence shelters and provides critical support for shelters, coalitions, training and technical assistance centers, children’s services, emergency response hotlines, and prevention initiatives. The Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvements Act of 2019 expands grant programs and makes many needed improvements such as updated provisions for The Hotline and expanded services for underrepresented populations, including American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and Deaf victims of domestic and dating violence. These updates ensure that more survivors have access to support and safety.
Domestic violence affects one in four women and one in seven men1. In A YEAR OF IMPACT: National Domestic Violence Hotline and loveisrespect the organization reports it received 573,670 contacts, more than in any other year since the organization’s inception.
Types of domestic violence and dating abuse most discussed in 2018 include:
• Emotional Abuse: 88% (up 2% from 2017)
• Physical Abuse: 60% (no change from 2017)
• Financial Abuse: 24% (up 2% from 2017)
• Digital Abuse: 15% (up 3% from 2017)
• Sexual Abuse: 11% (up 1% from 2017)
About The National Domestic Violence Hotline
The Hotline is the only national organization providing services 24/7/365 via phone, chat, and text, helping those affected by relationship violence find the support and safety they deserve. We also focus on the prevention of abuse through loveisrespect, our healthy relationships platform that engages, educates, and empowers young people to prevent and end abusive relationships. The Hotline and loveisrespect are free and confidential and available for anyone who is affected by abuse. The organization has the most comprehensive resource database in the country, with access to 4,800 service providers and resources in the U.S., U.S. territories, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline relies on the generous support of individuals, private gifts from corporations and foundations, and federal grants. It is funded in part by Grant Number 90EV0426 from the Family and Youth Services Bureau, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Administration for Children and Families or the U.S. Department of HHS.
For more information visit www.thehotline.org.
For questions or to arrange a media interview with Katie Ray-Jones contact Liz Bradford, firstname.lastname@example.org, 214-202-8830.
¹ Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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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:
Types of domestic violence and dating abuse most discussed in contacts (calls, chats, texts) with The Hotline and loveisrespect:
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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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 email@example.com, Grace Huang at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Monica McLaughlin at email@example.com.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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 immigrants, LGBTQ people, people 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:
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 educator, learning 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).
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“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
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.