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The National Domestic Violence Hotline

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

The Hotline

#VAWA18 Statement from Katie Ray-Jones, CEO, National Domestic Violence Hotline (Thursday, July 26th 2018)

Congress must vote YES on the 2018 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act

We are grateful to Representative Jackson Lee, Representative Jerold Nadler, and Representative Nancy Pelosi for their continued commitment to the millions of women and men who are victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence. These legislators introduced the 2018 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act  (VAWA) in Washington, DC today. Since its first passage in 1994, VAWA has provided a national, streamlined response to how communities address and prevent domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.

With each reauthorization, critical enhancements have been made to include the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable survivors. We are encouraged to see such strong support of this bill that 1) recognizes the significance of investing in evidence-based prevention programs to stop the generational cycle of abuse, including programs that focus on engaging boys and men; 2) recognizes tribal sovereignty by allowing prosecution of non-native offenders of sexual assault, child abuse, trafficking, and stalking; 3) continues to support resources and programming for underserved communities and communities of color; and 4) enhanced housing protections for survivors.

In 2017, The Hotline answered more than 320,000 contacts from those seeking support, however nearly 98,000 calls went unanswered due to a lack of resources. Direct service, housing, and legal services programs for domestic violence survivors continue to face similar challenges. The 2018 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act provides vital improvements for survivors that will save lives and make communities safer. It’s important that Congress pass this life-saving legislation and show that they support the 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men who will experience abuse in their lifetime.”

Katie Ray-Jones, CEO, National Domestic Violence Hotline

 

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Seeking Shelter: What to Expect, How to Share Your Story, and What to Do If You Are Denied Assistance (Thursday, July 5th 2018)

By Eleanor, a Bilingual Hotline Advocate

Read Seeking Shelter: Part One here

Here at The Hotline we often hear from survivors who are overwhelmed by the idea of reaching out to a shelter for support. If you are struggling to take the next step, know that you are not alone. The process of seeking shelter can be daunting, especially if you reached out for assistance in the past and were turned away.

If you are feeling anxious about contacting a shelter, it can be helpful to learn more about the intake process. Sometimes knowing ahead of time what information shelter staff will need to know about your situation can help you mentally prepare for the experience, and make your interaction more positive.

Seeking-Shelter-Blog-NDVH

What to Expect When You Contact a Shelter

Every shelter has their own unique policies and procedures, so you can’t know for sure exactly how things will go when you reach out. However, there are some common questions that you can probably expect to be asked. Knowing these questions and their purpose in advance can help you prepare, as well as ensure you will provide information that will best help shelter staff meet your needs.

When you contact a shelter, you can expect the person who answers your call to start the conversation by asking if you are in a safe place to talk. This question can be frustrating for some—obviously you’re not safe, you wouldn’t be calling a domestic violence shelter if you were. When staff ask this question, they are hoping to ensure that you’re not in any immediate physical danger and that you have privacy to talk, away from anyone who might become angry or upset if they knew you were talking to a domestic violence shelter. Once your immediate physical safety is confirmed, they may begin a lethality assessment. A lethality assessment is a set of questions designed to identify victims who are at risk of homicide or serious injury by their romantic partner. While being asked to share details with a stranger about the most severe abuse you are experiencing can feel invasive, shelters will often prioritize space based on these responses, so it’s important to be as honest as you can be.

In addition to a lethality assessment, you can expect to be asked:

  • The current whereabouts of your abusive partner
  • Whether they have access to guns and/or other weapons
  • Whether you will be bringing children
  • If you live with your abuser
  • If police were involved during your most recent abusive incident
  • What medications are currently prescribed to you
  • Whether you have any pets who will need shelter
  • If you will need any accommodations for a disability
  • If there is a protection order in place against your abuser

This list is certainly not exhaustive, and it is possible you may be asked other details of your story that we have not included here.

Sharing Your Story Effectively

If you anticipate that you will have difficulties communicating what is happening to intake, it can be helpful to write your story down prior to contacting a shelter. Please consider your safety prior to writing anything down on paper that your abuser can see. If you need help figuring out how to safely journal or document your abuse, feel free to reach out to one of our Advocates for assistance.

Formulating your thoughts by writing them down on paper can be a helpful way to process what you are experiencing (or have experienced) from your abuser. If you don’t know where to begin, try starting by answering the questions to the lethality assessment discussed above. This can be particularly beneficial for victims and survivors of trauma, because they may struggle to remember specific details of their abuse.

It can also be helpful to read from these answers when you decide to call. While it is so understandable for answering these questions to trigger strong emotions, doing your best to maintain composure can reduce the likelihood of being perceived as a combative caller or having your situation dismissed. If possible, try to lead with statements that begin in the first person (“I”-focused language) about how your partner’s behavior makes you feel and why you are concerned for your safety.

If you find yourself beginning to raise your voice or realize that you are becoming overwhelmed or upset, you can always take a moment to ground yourself or ask if you can call back later. Additionally, if you have the emotional space, you can try to educate the person with whom you are speaking at the shelter about why you are raising your voice (i.e. telling your story is an emotionally triggering experience for you, you’re having flashbacks associated with describing the abuse in detail, etc.).

While the majority of shelter staff go through training on intimate partner violence, unfortunately not all domestic violence professionals may be familiar with trauma-informed advocacy or LGBTQ abuse dynamics, or understand that men can be victims of abuse too. The Hotline recognizes that it’s not the victim’s responsibility to educate shelter staff about best practices or that abuse can happen to anyone. However, doing so in a respectful manner may be worth considering, especially if you live in an area that has not adopted these attitudes or received training around them. If you ever feel like your local shelter is being discriminatory or disrespectful, you also always have the option to contact your state coalition for assistance.

When Space is Unavailable or You Are Denied Assistance

Being denied shelter space can be devastating, and it can seem like you are out of options. However, if you are denied due to capacity or as a result of your gender and/or sexual orientation, you might try asking the shelter if they offer hotel vouchers. This is a service that some shelters are able to provide, but may only do so upon request. Another option would be to ask the shelter if they are aware of others in the area that might have availability, or if there is a central “bed line” in your area that collects up-to-date information about which shelters have openings. Additionally, it can be helpful to keep a clear log of what shelters you have contacted and the requirements to stay on that particular shelter’s waitlist so you can keep track. This can also help our Advocates look for alternatives to places you’ve already tried, if you’re able to safely reach out to us.  Again, please consider your safety prior to writing anything down on paper that your abuser can see.

Still feeling nervous about reaching out, or concerned that your local shelter may not believe your situation? Our Advocates are here for you 24/7/365 by phone and online chat to discuss your concerns and brainstorm solutions. If you reach out by phone, we may be able to offer direct connect services to your local shelter, where we can transfer your call, briefly introduce what is happening in your relationship, and explain why you are needing support today. Sometimes hearing the National Domestic Violence Hotline introduce your situation can help establish rapport with shelter staff more quickly, provide legitimacy to your situation, and take some of the emotional burden off your shoulders.

Additional Resources

The post Seeking Shelter: What to Expect, How to Share Your Story, and What to Do If You Are Denied Assistance appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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Helpers: So You Want to Stage an Intervention… (Wednesday, June 27th 2018)

By Emily, a Hotline Advocate

Your son mentions he’s back with his partner, and you wonder whether he’s hiding fresh bruises under his clothes. Your co-worker decides to leave her husband, who makes her feels like she can’t do anything right, but the next day, she changes her mind – after all, he’s promised to change. Your best friend cancels your plans, over and over, and when you finally see them, they share that their boyfriend has been limiting their access to money.

Maybe you’ve had experiences like these, since in their lifetime, one in three women and one in four men have been physically abused by an intimate partner, with many of those also experiencing sexual violence. But abuse isn’t always physical – almost half of men and women experience emotionally abusive behavior from an intimate partner, and the vast majority of survivors experience economic abuse, too.

Statistics like these show us that relationship abuse is a startlingly common phenomenon, affecting people of all ages, races, nationalities, genders, sexualities, religions, and socioeconomic groups. It can definitely be overwhelming to consider the prevalence of intimate partner violence, and even harder to watch people you care about live through painful and even dangerous relationships. It is totally normal to feel helpless and to want do whatever you can to help that person be safe. One day, the idea may occur to you: an intervention! But how should you go about it? The answer is simpler than you might think: don’t.

What do you mean, intervening isn’t helpful?

One of the most challenging things in life is watching someone you care about be abused by someone who’s supposed to treat them with love and respect. If you find yourself in this role, it is natural to want to take initiative, involve law enforcement, present your loved one with ultimatums, or even forcibly remove them from the abusive situation. However, interventions such as these are typically not the best response for someone in an abusive relationship, as they are disempowering and may even put the survivor in greater danger.

Points to Consider

However inadvertently, interventions often communicate a few troubling things to a survivor: Let me tell you what’s good for you. I understand what you need better than you do. If you trusted me, you would listen and do what I say. What’s problematic about this is that these are similar to the kinds of things an abusive partner might be communicating, explicitly or implicitly, to the survivor. In other words, intervening communicates that you don’t see the survivor as autonomous, which can be incredibly disempowering. We know that when survivors feel supported, they are more likely to feel strong enough take steps to keep themselves safer. It’s also important to keep in mind that safety is not always black and white, and that interventions have a tendency to set up this false dichotomy for survivors, with no middle ground: they can either be safe outside the relationship, or in danger within it. This oversimplifies the process of leaving and overlooks major safety concerns:

  • Leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time in a relationship, as the abuse tends to escalate as the abuser feels their power and control slipping away.
  • Ending an abusive relationship does not usually mean the end of abuse. Emotionally abusive behaviors such as stalking and threats may even increase after a survivor leaves.
  • Leaving safely requires careful preparation and planning. Simply leaving an abusive situation without considering both immediate and long-term safety and emotional support needs can actually put a survivor in more danger.
  • Survivors know their situation best, and leaving may not be the safest or even most worthwhile choice for them. For example, abusers often threaten very real harm to family, friends, children, pets, property or even themselves if a survivor leaves. Many shelters cannot accommodate survivors’ adult dependents, stepchildren, teenage male children or pets, and a survivor may not be willing to leave their loved ones behind. There are countless other reasons a survivor may decide to stay with an abuser.
  • Unfortunately, CPS, APS, counselors, law enforcement and the justice system don’t always provide the protection or services necessary to meet a survivor’s needs. Shelters often do not have enough space for all of the survivors who are seeking safety, and many survivors rely on their abusers for financial stability. Leaving may not be a sustainable long-term option for a survivor.
  • Revisiting their situation again and again through criminal justice proceedings, custody hearings, regulatory agencies, employers, medical and mental health professionals, religious leaders, family, friends, or the media, can be incredibly traumatic for survivors.
  • Asking for help can be fatiguing and time consuming, as it involves contacting many sources and retelling stories in order to meet just one of many needs that must be addressed. This can be even harder for survivors who don’t have the technology, privacy, or transportation to safely seek support.
  • Abusers seek to isolate their partners from their support systems. Excessive pressure or criticism from family and friends can make survivors feel like they can’t turn to these loved ones when they do need support in the future, playing right into the abuser’s narrative.

Helpful Strategies

Even though an intervention isn’t an effective way to be supportive, there are ways that you can be there for the survivors you care about:

  • Understand the stages of change. 
    The healing process isn’t linear. While it’s understandable that you would want your loved one to make a dramatic change in their life overnight, remember, these kinds of decisions tend to happen over long periods of time.

    • In pre-contemplation, your loved one has not yet begun considering what change could look like. They may feel like something is wrong, but haven’t admitted the problem or thought seriously about change.
    • In contemplation, they consider what changes they could make to better prioritize their safety. Still, these steps are just a thought, and they are unlikely to make changes in the immediate future.
    • In preparation, a survivor, of their own accord, actively begins planning to better stay safe.
    • Action is the time period in which survivors make significant, life-affirming changes.
    • In maintenance, a survivor continues to adapt to changing circumstances in order to preserve a safe, supportive, and empowering environment.

It’s alright for a survivor to be in any one of these stages of change. Moving through them can take weeks, months, or even years, and people don’t always move through them in a consecutive order. Forcing or pressuring someone who is in pre-contemplation to start safety planning will likely be ineffective, as they have not yet admitted to themselves that they are experiencing abuse. It’s also important to remember that it takes survivors an average of seven attempts at leaving an abusive relationship before leaving for good. It can be challenging for anyone to realize that one of the people they care for most is also hurting them the most.

  • Be a friend. 

This might sound redundant, but it’s true! You cared about your loved one before they got into this relationship, and you can remind them that there’s more to their life than the abuse they’re experiencing. Remind them what healthy relationships look like. Ask if you can help with their self-care and emotional safety.  Sometimes it can be more helpful to talk about hobbies, work, children, other relationships, health and nutrition, media, and more – it reminds survivors of their identity outside of the relationship and can give them a break from the trauma they’re experiencing. Other times, it helps for survivors to tell their stories and re-tell them as a way to process their experiences. You can also think about going to them with a problem of your own to remind them that you trust and respect their judgment and perspective. Everyone is different, so think about what might work best to support your friend.

  • When you do talk about the relationship, focus on behaviors.

Discussing an abusive partner’s behavior as immoral, unfair, illegal, or sinful can be difficult, since those are subjective concepts. Instead, it can be helpful to identify what kinds of behaviors are healthy, unhealthy, or abusive to draw a contrast for your loved one. For example, “Wow, I’m concerned to hear that your partner is pressuring you into unwanted sexual intimacy. In a healthy relationship, everyone feels safe saying no and knows that their boundaries will be respected.”

  • Remember you’re person, not a rescuer.

You already know that your loved one is struggling with power dynamics in their romantic relationship. Unequal power dynamics in friendships are disempowering, which is why it’s important to never take control of the survivor’s situation. No matter how it might seem from your perspective, your loved one is the expert on their own experience, and they understand the relationship best. You are not responsible for rescuing them from this relationship, nor are you capable of doing so. You’re doing the right thing when you support rather than rescue.

  • Know your limits, and set appropriate boundaries. 

Not everyone has the emotional capacity to support a survivor, and there’s no shame in that. Knowing our limits is an act of strength, because naming our vulnerabilities takes courage. Know the signs of vicarious trauma and observe your own emotions. Your loved one deserves support, and if you are at your upper limit, it’s okay to refer them to us or a local domestic violence program that could better assist them. Then, prioritize your emotional well-being and practice self-care to replenish your emotional resources.

Need more support?

Reach out to our advocates! We are here to support you and your loved one at any point along the way. Reach us 24/7/365 by phone at 1-800-799-7233 or by chat at www.thehotline.org.

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NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE ADVOCATES ANNOUNCE CURRENT TRENDS AND INSIGHTS IDENTIFIED IN ANNUAL IMPACT REPORT (Thursday, June 21st 2018)

For Immediate Release

Washington, DC – June 21, 2018 – Advocates joined a congressional panel sponsored by the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) to examine the state of domestic violence in America today. The panel, led by The Hotline’s Chief Executive Officer, Katie Ray-Jones, briefed a packed room of congressional staffers about trends, demographics, and emerging and unmet needs of victims and survivors of domestic violence revealed in the 2017 Impact Report. Representatives from The Hotline, Department of Health and Human Services and Avon discussed insights identified by the data. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) attended the briefing and made brief remarks. Both legislators are co-sponsors of the Senate’s bipartisan effort to reauthorize funding for the Family Violence Prevention Services Act (S.2784) that provides critical funding for housing and service programs for domestic violence and dating abuse survivors.

“One in three women and one in seven men are impacted by domestic violence in their lifetime. The 2017 Impact Report illustrated the many ways in which that abuse plays out in relationships where domestic violence is present, as well as shifts in awareness about abuse for survivors of violence. For example, between 2016 and 2017, we saw a sharp increase in contacts reaching out for support and referrals related to gun violence. Additionally, we saw a modest increase in contacts reaching out for support related to immigration, however, advocates at The Hotline have noted that many immigrant survivors aren’t asking for support outside of protective orders or calling the police due to a heightened fear about detention and deportation. Clearly, there is a need for the supportive services and resources provided by organizations like ours,” said Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of The Hotline.  

Last year, 323,356 calls, chats, and texts were answered by advocates, but 98,159 calls went unanswered due to a lack of resources.

Senator Casey said, “I am pleased to be working with The National Domestic Violence Hotline, Senator Cornyn, and others to reauthorize the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act. This critically important legislation supports direct services for victims of domestic violence, helping them stay safe as they rebuild their lives. I look forward to continuing to fight for protections and resources for victims of domestic violence.”

“These are not partisan issues. These are issues that we try to work together on to help people who need help,” said Senator John Cornyn at the event. “The Hotline receives 1,600 calls, texts, and chats each day. It received more than 17,000 last year in Texas alone. These are statistics that demonstrate the dramatic need for the services that you provide.”

The 2017 Impact Report by the numbers:

  • 74% increase in number of contacts indicating that firearms played a role in their abuse
  • 13% increase in number of contacts related to immigration, consistent with a national trend among domestic and sexual violence service providers
  • 11% increase in contacts from persons who reported their abusive situation involved children
  • 13.7% increase in contacts related to suicide (attempts or threats of suicide used as coercion by abuser)

Types of domestic violence and dating abuse most discussed in calls (or texts or chats) with The Hotline and loveisrespect, a project of The Hotline that helps educate young people about healthy relationships and dating violence:

  • Emotional Abuse: 86% 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. We often hear from women that this type of abusive behavior takes place over years before turning physical.
  • Financial Abuse: 22% 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.
  • Physical Abuse: 60% 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.
  • Digital Abuse: 12%.  Examples of digital abuse include using GPS or a phone to stalk their partners or track their travel, sending relentless text messaging, 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: 10%. 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.

During the briefing, Debbie Coffey, Vice President of Communications for New Avon LLC, talked about how the lack of financial resources and lack of personal safety are two reinforcing co-dependent crises.  “Without adequate economic resources, women can become imprisoned in a vicious downward cycle from which it is difficult to break free. Given Avon’s focus on providing economic opportunities, it is only natural that the company is passionate about ending violence against women because a woman cannot be truly empowered unless her health and safety are guaranteed. We’re proud to support the National Domestic Violence Hotline and believe in the power of public-private partnerships to bring forth innovative solutions to help end this epidemic of abuse.”

For more information on the 2017 Impact Report and the National Domestic Violence Hotline, please visit www.thehotline.org.

About the National Domestic Violence Hotline

The National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) is a vital service that answers the call to support and shift power back to victims and survivors of relationship abuse through human connection and practical assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The Hotline’s highly-trained, expert advocates provide compassionate support to anyone who reaches out for help with lifesaving resources, safety planning and hope. The Hotline is a non-profit established in 1996 as a component of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

loveisrespect is a project of The Hotline. Its purpose is to engage, educate and empower young people to prevent and end abusive relationships. The organization provides information and support to concerned friends and family members, teachers, counselors, service providers and members of law enforcement. Free and confidential phone, live chat and texting services are available 24/7/365. Advocates provide support through online chat at loveisrespect.org, text (send loveis to 22522*) or phone, 1-866-331-9474.

The 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 90EV0407/03 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)/Administration for Children and Families. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Administration for Children and Families or the U.S. Department of HHS.

*Msg&Data Rates apply on text for help services. Read our privacy policy and Terms & Conditions. Text STOP to 22522 to unsubscribe. Text HELP to 22522 for tech support. Loveisrespect Text for Help Services are sponsored by Mary Kay Inc.

 

Contact: Lisa Lawrence

Cell: 803-470-6384

Email: hotline.media@ndvh.org

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Media Statement from National Domestic Violence Hotline CEO Regarding U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Reversal of Immigration Court Ruling Granting Asylum Protection for Domestic Violence Survivors (Wednesday, June 13th 2018)

In a closely watched case, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed the ruling of an immigration court in the Matter of A-B- that allowed a Salvadoran woman to seek asylum in the U.S. and escape her physically abusive husband. The decision yesterday by the Attorney General outlines that individuals cannot seek asylum in the U.S. solely based on the grounds of domestic violence claims, particularly where the perpetrator is a non-government actor. This decision reverses decades of progress made to ensure that immigrant survivors and their children are able to seek refuge and safety, and takes us back to an era where domestic violence was dismissed as a private matter” between two people, not warranting governmental intervention. Here at The Hotline, we know this decision is going to have a devastating impact on immigrant survivors of violence. Without access to critical protections such as asylum for domestic violence victims fleeing partners in another country, this decision threatens the lives of thousands of survivors and their children, including the hundreds of currently pending cases.

Between 2016 and 2017, The Hotline saw a 13.5% increase in contacts from immigrant survivors, as well as their family and friends, to seek crisis counseling, support, safety planning options, and referrals. Many survivors indicated that they did not want to seek protection orders or access criminal justice options for fear of detention or deportation. This is consistent with a national trend, where immigrant survivors are reaching out for help but not wanting to seek legal protections they’re entitled to for fear of being deported and separated from their children.  

It is our hope that stakeholders in the issue of domestic violence will speak up for immigrant survivors and call on Members of Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to implement humane immigration policies that take into account the needs of immigrant survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Without access to critical protections such as asylum for these victims, women and children will be returned to violent homes and some will die.

Katie Ray-Jones

CEO, National Domestic Violence Hotline 

#ProtectSurvivors

####

For more information, contact Lisa Lawrence at hotline.media@ndvh.org or 1-803-470-NDVH (6384)

The post Media Statement from National Domestic Violence Hotline CEO Regarding U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Reversal of Immigration Court Ruling Granting Asylum Protection for Domestic Violence Survivors appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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Immigrant domestic violence survivors need our help now more than ever (Monday, June 11th 2018)

By Qudsia Raja, National Domestic Violence Hotline Policy Director

Yesterday was an exceptionally heavy day for advocates working to protect the rights of immigrant survivors of domestic violence. As policy director for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, I am acutely aware of the climate in our nation’s capital when it comes to government protections for women and children who are survivors of domestic abuse. It is my job to ensure these protections continue through sound, thoughtful policy and that government funding of our direct support services continues. Likewise, in Austin, Texas, home to our national call center, our advocates are busy answering chats, texts, and calls from an average 1,600 people each day reaching out for support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Like me, they are keenly aware of the trauma experienced by the one in four women and one in seven men who will be victims of severe physical violence in their lifetimes. It’s the advocates’ job to offer compassionate support and critical services to anyone affected by emotional, sexual, financial, and physical abuse. Thanks to bi-partisan legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), this advocacy has continued for decades and more than four million people, including tens of thousands of immigrants, have received help through The Hotline.

In a closely watched case, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed the ruling of an immigration court in the Matter of A-B- that allowed a Salvadoran woman to seek asylum in the U.S. and escape her physically abusive husband. The decision yesterday by the Attorney General outlines that individuals cannot seek asylum in the U.S. solely based on the grounds of domestic violence claims, particularly where the perpetrator is a non-government actor. This decision reverses decades of progress made to ensure that immigrant survivors and their children are able to seek refuge and safety, and takes us back to an era where domestic violence was dismissed as a “private matter” between two people, not warranting governmental intervention. Here at The Hotline, we know this decision is going to have a devastating impact on immigrant survivors of violence. Without access to critical protections such as asylum for domestic violence victims fleeing partners in another country, this decision threatens the lives of thousands of survivors and their children, including the hundreds of currently pending cases.

Between 2016 and 2017, The Hotline saw a 13.5% increase in contacts from immigrant domestic violence survivors, as well as their family and friends, to seek crisis counseling, support, safety planning options, and referrals. Many survivors indicated that they did not want to seek protection orders or access criminal justice options for fear of detention or deportation. This is consistent with a national trend, where immigrant survivors are reaching out for help but not wanting to seek legal protections they’re entitled to for fear of being deported and separated from their children.

Today, I ask you to reach out to your Members of Congress and urge them to continue to work in a bipartisan manner to implement humane immigration policies that take into account the needs of immigrant survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Without access to critical protections such as asylum for these victims, women and children will be returned to violent homes and some will die. Now is the time to speak up for them, before it’s too late.

TAKE ACTION: Demand that Congress Reverse this Decision in the Matter of A-B and Provide Critical Protections for Immigrant Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence

  • To find your Member of Congress, click here. Urge them to take action today and reject AG Sessions’ decision.
  • Sign a Change.org petition by the Tahirih Justice Center that demands a reversal of the decision.
  • Help uplift and amplify the detrimental impact of this decision by posting on social media and using the following hashtags: #ProtectSurvivors #ImmigrantWomenToo

The National Domestic Violence Hotline sits on the National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF) Steering Committee, a membership that includes national organizations whose primary purpose is to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Today, the NTF issued a statement denouncing the Attorney General’s decision.

Statement of the National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Denouncing the Attorney General’s Decision in Matter of A-B

The Steering Committee of the National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF), comprised of national leadership organizations advocating on behalf of sexual and domestic violence victims and women’s rights, represents hundreds of programs, service providers and community organizations across the country dedicated to making sure that all survivors of violence receive the protections and services they need and deserve.  We are alarmed by the significant adverse impact of the June 11, 2018 Attorney General’s deeply disappointing decision in Matter of A-B-.

The A.G.’s decision strikes at the heart of longstanding protections for domestic violence survivors and others who look to the United States for protection and refuge, taking us back to an era when domestic violence was considered a “private” matter; not meriting government intervention. This decision undermines decades of progress toward human rights policies that recognize the unique vulnerabilities of women and children who have experienced the trauma of violence and need secure immigration status to access safety.  By declaring that the lack of state intervention in domestic violence in other countries cannot be the sole basis for asylum in the U.S., the Attorney General is instituting a policy that will block thousands of people from obtaining refuge in the United States, condemning thousands of domestic violence victims to deportation to dangerous situations where they could very well lose their lives.

Already, this Administration’s policies have served to send the message to immigrant survivors of domestic violence that they are undeserving of safety and justice, making them more vulnerable to threats from abusers and more fearful that they will be separated from their children and communities. In this climate, the NTF calls on our nation’s policymakers to work together to uphold their commitment to all survivors – including through the protections of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) – and to forge a bipartisan, humane national immigration policy.

Congress should reject the Attorney General’s decision in Matter of A-B-., and work in a bipartisan manner to exercise greater oversight of the Administration’s immigration policies that harm domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. As part of these efforts, Congress must preserve and defend provisions in our asylum laws that enable immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to seek life-saving refuge and protection when their countries’ officials fail to protect them from targeted violence. In addition, Congress must continue to work in a bipartisan manner to seek a more just and humane immigration system that protects survivors and strengthens families, communities, and the nation.

For more information, please contact Archi Pyati, Tahirih Justice Center, at archip@tahirih.org, Grace Huang, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence at ghuang@api-gbv.org, or Rosie Hidalgo, National Latin@ Network: Casa de Esperanza, at rhidalgo@casadeesperanza.org.

 

 

 

 

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Help! I Am Undocumented and Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence: What Are My Rights When Reaching Out for Support? (Wednesday, May 9th 2018)

Undocumented-and-Intimate-Partner-Violence-Blog-NDVHby Eleanor, a Bilingual Advocate at The Hotline

Here at The Hotline, we know that many immigrants experiencing domestic violence do not feel safe reaching out for support. Reporting abuse can lead to unwanted media attention or even an investigation from U.S. border enforcement agencies that may result in indefinite detention and/or deportation. If you are undocumented, it’s likely that your abusive partner is aware of your citizenship status, and may use this as a way to maintain power and control over you.

Regardless of your immigration status, know that there is hope and that there are options available to support you and keep you safe. Prior to taking action, it can be helpful to always know your rights, seek counsel from a lawyer who specializes in the type of immigration assistance that you are needing, and research how your university and/or local law enforcement agency have handled cases involving undocumented victims of crime in the past.

Know Your Rights

Even though immigration laws are constantly changing, it’s important to know your rights. You always have the right to stay safe and you do not need to disclose your immigration status in order to receive help. Additionally, it’s important to know that you have the right to access limited English proficiency assistance, emergency medical care, sheltershort-term housing, crisis counseling and intervention programs, soup kitchens, community food banks, protection under Title IX, assistance from law enforcement, and Crime Victim Compensation. You also have the right to file for protective orders, divorce, or custody of your children.

I don’t feel confident reading, writing, or speaking in English.

If you need language assistance, American Red Cross Language Bank offers free interpretation and translation services (you can fill out a request form here). If you need more immediate support to be able to contact a shelter, you can always reach out to The Hotline directly! We have English and Spanish speaking advocates available on phone and chat, as well as access to language interpretation services in over 170+ different languages when you contact us by phone.

Additionally, when you reach out to an emergency shelter, health clinic, or law enforcement for help, you have a right to interpretation and translation services. If you are declined limited English proficiency services, that is considered discrimination. If this happens, you or a close friend (not at risk of deportation) can file a complaint online at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights website.

I need medical assistance, but don’t have health insurance.

Federal law mandates that any hospital receiving government funding must provide care for all patients needing emergency medical care until a patient is stabilized. This law covers all individuals regardless of immigration status and does not require proof of citizenship or insurance. If you are asked about proof of insurance or citizenship, you have the right not to answer.

However, emergency medical care can be expensive. If you need more affordable options, it may be helpful to reach out to National Association of Free & Affordable Clinics, which offers free services to all individuals at any of their 1,200 clinics nationwide. There are also community health centersCVS Minute ClinicsPlanned ParenthoodGay Men’s Health CrisisLGBTQ-centered health clinics and Trans-centered health clinics that offer inclusive, free, and/or low-cost healthcare options.

Keep in mind, each state and medical facility may have different family violence statutes and mandatory reporting laws. If you are concerned about the possibility of an investigation by police, it can be helpful to review your local state statutes and/or healthcare facility’s mandatory reporting guidelines prior to seeking medical attention.

I heard shelters don’t serve undocumented immigrants.

The myth that shelters are unable to provide support to undocumented immigrants is false, and violates the Attorney General Order requiring that any services “necessary for the protection of life and safety” be provided without regard to immigration status. This requirement exempts all shelters and government domestic violence services from verifying immigration status as a condition for providing services. If a shelter or government domestic violence services program denies services to someone based on their citizenship status, they are in violation of this mandate, and may also be in violation of civil rights and fair housing laws.

Knowing that you are entitled to receive support does not make the process of reaching out and telling someone that you are experiencing abuse any easier. If you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed about taking the first step, it can be helpful to start small by reaching out to an immigration crisis hotline. Abuse tends to thrive in isolation, so it’s important that you try to connect with someone who can help keep you safe, make you feel secure, and does not judge what is happening or has happened to you.

I am an undocumented student attending high school or university.

If you are an undocumented student attending a high school or university that receives federal funding, you are protected under Title IX and the Clery Act when reporting abuse. If your school asks you to disclose your immigration status to administrators when reporting intimate partner violence or sexual assault, this is considered a form of intimidation and is in direct violation of the Clery Act.

We understand that reporting is not an option for everyone, especially if you identify as LGBTQ and are attending a university with Title IX religious exemptions. If you fear exposing your undocumented status, you may be able to file a complaint anonymously, either with the federal government or with your school. If you feel your university mishandled your situation, you have the right to file a federal complaint. Additional information can be found at End Rape on Campus or Know Your IX.

I am not sure if undocumented immigrants can file for custody.

Undocumented immigrants have a constitutional right to file for custody of their children. National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy ProjectLIFT Justice for All, and WomensLaw.org all provide information about the intersection of family court and immigration laws. Reaching out to one of these resources can be a helpful first step in determining your options.

I am afraid to talk to law enforcement or involve police.

You are not alone if you do not feel safe talking to law enforcement. However, it’s important for everyone, including undocumented immigrants, to prepare themselves emotionally for the possibility of interacting with police, especially if you find yourself in a situation where you may need to text 911call police, or file a protective order. If law enforcement inquires about your status, you have the right to stay silent or choose not to answer. As we mentioned before, it can be helpful to always know your rights, seek counsel from a lawyer who specializes in the type of immigration assistance that you are needing, and research how your university and/or local law enforcement agency have handled cases involving undocumented victims of crime in the past.

U.S. citizenship is not a requirement to apply for Crime Victim Compensation (in most states).

If you are an undocumented victim of a violent crime, you may be able to qualify for Crime Victim Compensation. Crime Victim Compensation is a federal program that can help victims of violent crimes receive financial assistance to pay for medical expenses, lost wages, counseling, and/or funeral or burial costs. Each state and U.S. territory varies in eligibility requirements. However, U.S. citizenship is not a requirement to apply for compensation, with the exception of Missouri and Nebraska. If you’d like to talk more about the process of applying for Crime Victim Compensation, you can chat anonymously with an advocate at Victim Connect.

I don’t have the financial resources to pay for therapy.

If counseling is something that you feel would be helpful for you, feel free to reach out and ask! A Hotline advocate can direct you to local resources that may be available for individual professional counseling that are free or low cost. If you are seeking counseling resources specific to sexual assault, you can contact RAINN. They offer services in English and Spanish and also have translators available 24/7! Reaching out to an online support group can also be a great option if you work, have children, do not have transportation readily available, or just feel more comfortable in an online setting. Check out these additional resources:

For safety planning and help locating resources in your area, feel free to reach out to an advocate at 1-800-799-7233 or chat at www.thehotline.org.

 

The post Help! I Am Undocumented and Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence: What Are My Rights When Reaching Out for Support? appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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I Just Want Help. Why Do I Have to Answer All These Questions? (Wednesday, April 25th 2018)

By Michelle, Development & Marketing Team Member and former Advocate at The Hotline

Deciding to reach out to The Hotline can be extremely difficult. Maybe you struggle to find the right opportunity, or maybe you’re just scared and don’t know what to expect. It can be frustrating to finally gather the courage to call, only to have to answer a bunch of questions before getting the help you need. However, the questions we ask at the start of every conversation help us provide you with the very best possible support for your situation, and help our organization work toward our mission. With the exceptions of the initial safety question and in some cases, your age, you never have to share any information you don’t feel comfortable sharing. To help you prepare, here are some questions you can expect to be asked when you do reach out.

“Are you currently safe to talk?”

At the beginning of any conversation, our advocates will first confirm whether you are safe to talk to us. If you aren’t sure of your answer, ask yourself if there is anyone around who might hurt you if they found out you were talking to us. If the answer is no, you’re probably safe. If the answer is yes, that probably means right now is not the best time to be reaching out. Your safety is our #1 priority, and we never want you to do anything that is going to put you in more danger. The Hotline cannot send help to your location, so we always encourage you to call 911 if you are in need of emergency assistance.

“What is your age, race, and gender?”

Your advocate (or pre-chat survey, if you’re chatting online) will next ask you some demographic questions, such as your age, race/ethnicity, and gender. We recognize that answering these questions, especially about race, can be triggering for some people. Remember that you never have to answer any questions you don’t feel comfortable answering. The only exception is that if you are chatting with us, you do have to share your age. This is due to legal restrictions that prohibit us from chatting with individuals under 13 years of age.

We ask demographic information for a few reasons. Firstly, knowing this type of information about a caller or chatter helps us provide the very best advocacy for that person’s situation. For example, knowing that a caller is male helps our advocate provide education around specific stigma male survivors may face, and allows them to direct the caller to shelters that serve men (many do not). Learning that a chatter identifies as Native American lets our advocate know to ask whether the abuse occurred on tribal land (which can impact a survivor’s legal choices) and speak to issues of cultural abuse. The more we know about your situation, the better we can support you with appropriate information and resources.

We also use demographic information to understand the populations we serve. This information is so valuable for us as our organization grows and changes, as it lets us identify where we are doing well and where there is still work to be done. For example, we can ask questions like “What populations aren’t reaching out to us? What obstacles might those groups be facing and how can we address them?” or “What types of web content and advocate training can we develop around groups that are starting to seek our services in larger numbers?” Collecting demographic information ultimately helps our organization move forward in a direction to best support those who reach out to us.

The last main reason we collect demographic information is to help us maintain and secure funding. Our funders want to know what populations we are serving, and statistics help us share that information with them in meaningful ways. Our funding, however, is not dependent on the content of information we gather. We are not granted more money for serving higher numbers of any specific population, and we do not have demographic quotas that we must meet. Knowing information about those who reach out allows us to seek funding to develop programs and initiatives specifically geared toward better serving certain groups.

“How did you hear about us?”

This question is a bit more straightforward. We like to ask how you heard about us so we know how well we are publicizing our organization. Some generous corporate funders also help to promote our services, and we love recognizing their impact when someone has learned about us from one of their initiatives. Your answer to this question helps us learn what we’re doing that is or isn’t working, and hopefully reach as many people as we possibly can.

“Have you talked with an advocate in the past?”

While your advocate will always meet you with empathy, respect and validation no matter how many times you’ve reached out, it can be helpful for them to know whether this is your first time. If it’s not, your advocate might ask what resources we’ve shared with you in the past and how those worked out for you, so we aren’t giving you the same information as last time. They might also ask what has changed since the last time you contacted us so we can understand how the safety plan you formulated in the past has been working for you. Remember that The Hotline is not meant to provide long-term support, so if you find yourself having to reach out to us frequently, let your advocate know you’d like a resource that can provide you with longer-term care, such as a counselor in your area.

Again, aside from your safety and possibly age, you never have to share any information with your advocate that you aren’t comfortable sharing. You are only required to share your age if you reach out via chat or text, so if you know you don’t want to share that information, please call us instead. Remember that we ask these questions to ultimately provide you with the very best possible support for your situation, and to help us achieve our vision of a world where all relationships are positive, healthy, and free from violence. Whenever you’re ready to reach out, our advocates will be here 24/7/365 by phone at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) and by chat at www.thehotline.org.

The post I Just Want Help. Why Do I Have to Answer All These Questions? appeared first on The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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Jennifer’s Story (Monday, April 16th 2018)

By Michelle, Administrative Assistant and former Advocate at The Hotline

Jennifer* was just 19 years old when she met her boyfriend in 2010 through a mutual friend. He was smart, kind and so generous, often showering her with gifts and surprising her at work to take her out to lunch, always picking up the check. Consumed by this whirlwind romance, Jennifer began spending all of her free time with her new partner. When he asked her to move in with him just two months into their relationship, there was little doubt in her mind when she enthusiastically agreed, “I thought it was a little soon, but I was so excited to build a home with him that I didn’t mind.”

After living together for a few months, Jennifer was starting to realize she hadn’t seen much of her friends or family since entering into this relationship. One day, she invited a male coworker to grab lunch with her to catch up. While out at lunch, her phone started buzzing with a call from her partner. Not wanting to be rude to her coworker, she ignored the call. Her partner called back repeatedly until Jennifer answered, and when she finally did, he accused her of cheating on him. He had stopped by the office for a surprise lunch date, but the receptionist told him Jennifer was already out with her colleague. Her boyfriend told Jennifer he knew what they were “really” doing.

Jennifer was horrified her partner thought she was being unfaithful. She didn’t think she had done anything wrong. She felt so guilty for the pain she had caused him, and how inconsiderate she had been. She immediately went to find her partner, not returning to work, and apologized profusely for having been so disrespectful. She even volunteered to show him her text history with her colleague to prove there was nothing between them. After that, her partner forgave her, but said that it was only fair that she agree to never spend time alone with other men, stop talking to her coworker, and let her boyfriend approve what she wore to work and to check her phone every day. “I thought that was kind of a harsh punishment,” Jennifer said, “but I felt so bad. I wanted him to forgive me completely, and I wanted the whole thing to be over, so I agreed.”

Three years into their relationship, after living daily life further and further under her partner’s control, Jennifer found out she was pregnant. She had been worried this might happen since her partner forced her to stop taking birth control pills. When she finally broke the news to him, he was overjoyed. “Now you can quit your job!” he said. Jennifer was confused—she loved her job and had no intention of quitting, even if she was going to have a baby. Her boyfriend became enraged, yelling, throwing things, and telling her she would be a terrible mother if working was more important than spending time with her child. She had never seen him this violent before, and she was scared of what he might do. She agreed to quit her job and did so the following day.

One day, six months into her pregnancy, Jennifer wanted to get a haircut. Her partner now had full control of their finances, so she asked for some money to see her stylist. Her boyfriend refused, asking her who she was trying to look good for. Jennifer fought back, and explained to us, “I was starting to see that I wasn’t the problem, his insecurity was. I called him out on it and it was like I flipped a switch.” Her boyfriend slapped her across the face so hard that she fell onto the ground and was left with a black eye. At her prenatal visit the following week, Jennifer’s doctor told her that her baby was in perfect health, but asked about her eye. Her boyfriend, who now insisted on being present at every check-up, told the doctor that Jennifer had hit it on their kitchen cabinet. Too scared to tell her doctor the truth behind her injury, Jennifer went along with his story.

After their daughter was born, things between Jennifer and her boyfriend seemed to be improving. “We were so in love with her,” Jennifer said, “We agreed to put the past behind us and look forward to the future.” However, three months later, her boyfriend once again became violent, pushing Jennifer into a wall and choking her during an argument. She broke away and tried to call 911, but her partner slapped her phone out of her hand, smashed it with his foot and sexually assaulted her. Unfortunately, this pattern of violence continued in their relationship for years.

Two years later, their daughter was throwing a tantrum and would not stop crying. Her boyfriend began yelling, and when Jennifer yelled back, her partner beat her so severely that she had to go to the emergency room. Their little girl saw the whole thing. “My daughter watched me get stitches that night,” Jennifer said. “I thought about the example I was setting for her if I stayed.” She decided enough was enough, and told her boyfriend she was leaving him. He threatened to hire a lawyer and sue her for sole custody, and promised that Jennifer, having no money to afford a lawyer of her own, would never see her daughter again. Terrified at the possibility of losing her daughter, Jennifer made the choice to stay in her relationship, and gave up hope that she would ever be free of abuse.

Six months ago, Jennifer was reading an article that referenced The Hotline, and she decided to reach out while her boyfriend was away at a conference. Through tears, she told our advocate how embarrassed and ashamed she was that she hadn’t been able to protect herself or her daughter, “I tried so hard to protect her,” she explained. “I never wanted her to see the way he treats me behind closed doors. I didn’t report him because I was sure he would kill me or kidnap my daughter if I ever said anything.”

Our advocate reassured Jennifer that the abuse she was experiencing was not her fault, and identified the emotional, physical, sexual, digital and financial tactics her partner was using to maintain power and control over her in their relationship. Together, they explored options for Jennifer’s physical safety and emotional well-being as she decided to leave her abuser. They eventually came up with a plan for Jennifer to pack up her things and take her daughter to her sister’s house nearby, reach out to a local legal resource that offered free services for survivors, gather documentation of her abuse, and start going to a local support group for survivors. At the end of her conversation, Jennifer told her advocate, “Thank you so much for sharing these resources and for being there to listen to me. I finally feel like my head is clear. I know what is happening, I know it is abuse, and I’m not as scared anymore. Thank you.”

Recently, Jennifer reached back out to The Hotline, saying, “I just wanted to thank you all. Six months ago I was in a domestic violence situation. I spoke with one of your advocates and they gave me a plan and some resources in my area to reach out to. I followed the plan and although I am still fighting my ex for custody, I am safe and happy. Until I came here, I thought I was alone and that no one would believe me. Your organization saved my life.”

Help us continue our work in helping survivors find safe and happy lives by making your gift today. This is why we always need to be there when someone reaches out to The Hotline. Together, we can help the hundreds of thousands of people who reach out to us every year—resilient individual who are seeking safety from abusers plus the understanding, healing and hope that every survivor needs and deserves.

*Names and details have been changed to protect identities. Jennifer’s story is compiled from real experiences of survivors who have contacted The Hotline. To protect survivors’ safety, we never publish a survivor’s full story without their express permission.

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Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2018: Embrace Your Voice (Tuesday, April 10th 2018)

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and this year’s theme is “Embrace Your Voice.” Between the Harvey Weinstein revelations, the #MeToo campaign, and the Time’s Up movement, we have watched survivors and allies all over the globe embrace their voices over the past few months in an important conversation around sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. It’s important to remember however, that there are many who will choose never to share their stories, and that’s okay, too. Embracing your voice around sexual assault can happen in so many ways, whether it’s calling out offensive “locker room talk” that normalizes sexual assault, guiding a friend to appropriate resources in a time of need, or simply practicing good consent strategies with your sexual partners. It’s important that we all work to fight sexual assault in whatever way we feel capable, big or small.

Join us tomorrow, Wednesday, April 11, at 1 p.m. Central on our Twitter account (@ndvh) as we take part in a Sexual Assault Awareness Month-themed Twitter chat with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). You can also search for #NEDAChat on Twitter to tune-in.

Some statistics about sexual assault and abuse from RAINN:

  • Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.
  • 1 in 6 American women (17%) and 1 in 33 American men (3%) have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
  • Ages 18-24 carry a high risk of sexual violence:
    • 21% of transgender, genderqueer and nonconforming college students, 18% of cisgender female college students, and 4% of cisgender male college students have been sexually assaulted.
    • 18-24 year old women who are not in college are 20% more likely to be sexually assaulted than students of the same age.
  • Native Americans are twice as likely to experience sexual assault compared to all races.
  • 7 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.
  • 25% of rapes are committed by a current or former intimate partner.
  • Perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to go to jail or prison than any other criminals: out of every 1000 rapes, only 310 are reported to police and only 6 rapists will be incarcerated.

While The Hotline is not a sexual assault resource, we know that sexual violence can be one way an abuser maintains power and control over their victim. If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual violence from an intimate partner, please call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or chat with us by selecting Chat Now. For support and resources specifically geared toward sexual assault (including sexual assault that is not part of an intimate partner relationship), please reach out to RAINN at 1(800)-656-HOPE (4673) or chat at www.rainn.org.

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