Recent Posts

Prenatal and Early Pregnancy: Tips for Staying Safe

This post was written by Rebecca, a Hotline manager, and is the first in a series about pregnancy and abuse.

prenatal-and-pregnancyDeciding if and when to have a child with a partner is a big decision. This decision can be even more challenging when you are with someone who is threatening, controlling and manipulative. Pregnancy and parenthood cause physical, emotional, financial and social changes, and therefore it is understandable to want stable and reliable partners for support during this transitional time. Unfortunately, some abusers use this transition as an opportunity to gain or maintain power and control through tactics known as reproductive coercion. These tactics can play out differently in every relationship and may seem confusing.

In a healthy relationship, you’re able to talk openly about your feelings around having children without fearing retaliation from your partner if you disagree about the timing or decision to have a child or more children. Differing feelings and desires may lead to a mutual decision to end the relationship, which may be difficult but it would not cause a concern for your safety. If you feel afraid to disagree with your partner’s wishes around if and when to have children, this could be a red flag of an abusive relationship.

Whatever your decisions are, you deserve to be safe with your partner. If you are finding that it’s difficult to safely share your choices and needs with your partner, you might turn to other sources for perspective on these decisions. A big piece of any safety plan is determining who is in your support network. If you are thinking of becoming pregnant, or if you are in the early weeks of pregnancy, you may want to consider reaching out to a healthcare provider, such as a nurse or Ob-Gyn, to learn more about how to take care of your physical health needs during this time. You can also discuss with them a plan for getting supportive care that allows space for you to share your needs with them without your partner in the room. Another part of a support network may be a counselor or therapist – someone who you can trust to be nonjudgmental and supportive as you sort out your feelings and concerns around having children with your partner. Trusted friends or family members may also be able to offer support, whatever your decisions may be.

It also can help to get more information from sources that lay out your full range of options. Backline is a national organization that has an informative website around pregnancy and parenting and a toll-free talkline where you can explore a full spectrum of options. Futures Without Violence also has a lot of great information on their website, including projects dedicated to increasing reproductive and sexual health. Planned Parenthood has information on their website about factors and information you may want to take into account when considering pregnancy. The Hotline is also here for you 24/7 by phone (1-800-799-7233) or chat (7 a.m. to 2 a.m. CT) to brainstorm more ideas for support and information.

While putting together your support network and exploring resources, it’s important to consider whether your partner may be trying to monitor your activities. You may want to reach out for support on a phone or computer that your partner can not access. If you share a phone account, consider getting a go phone so your partner cannot observe the numbers that you’ve called on your bill. You may also want to use a work or public computer or a friend’s smartphone to explore online resources instead of a computer or smartphone that your partner could monitor.

These decisions are big, and you deserve access to the support and information that can help you choose the options that feel best to you. You are the expert in your situation and are the one best-suited to make these decisions. Whatever you decide, The Hotline is here for you every step of the way.

Source: thehotline.org/feed

Safety Planning Around Sexual Abuse

Sexual-Abuse-Safety-PlanThis post was written by Heather, an advocate at loveisrespect/The Hotline

All forms of abuse can be really difficult to endure, but we know that survivors of sexual abuse are often hesitant to talk about it even if they have previously opened up to a friend, counselor or Hotline advocate about other forms of abuse. If you are in an abusive relationship and your partner has ever pressured or forced you to do anything sexually that you were not comfortable with or did not actively consent to, that is considered sexual abuse.

Is This Abuse?

Your body is yours, and whether it’s the first time or the hundredth time, whether it’s a hook up, a committed relationship or even a marriage, you are never obligated to give consent even if you have done so in the past. You get to make your own boundaries. A person can decide to stop any activity at any time, for any reason. If you don’t feel safe saying “no” then you have no room to say “yes.” If your partner pouts and begs until you finally say yes, that’s not consent. If they tell you that you’d have sex (or do any sexual activity) if you “really” loved them, that’s not consent. If your partner pretends not to hear you when you say no or stop, that’s not consent. Any response that disregards or minimizes your wishes when you decline a sexual activity is not okay.

We know that being LGBTQIA+ doesn’t protect anyone from abuse so if you have to “prove” anything to your partner by engaging in sexual activities you aren’t comfortable with, that’s abusive. Your sexual orientation and gender identity are yours, and you get to choose whether to disclose them or not, as well as who you tell. If your partner is threatening to out you (or refusing to let you come out) if you don’t have sex, that is abuse.

Are you into kinky sex? There’s nothing wrong with safe and consensual sexual activities that involve an element of bondage, pain or submission, as long as the relationship itself is healthy and respectful. The basis of a healthy BDSM relationship is consent, so if your partner is unwilling to discuss boundaries with you, or ignores your safe word, that is abuse.

Safety Planning

One of the most helpful things you can do if you are in a relationship that is abusive in any way is to make a safety plan. A safety plan is a living thing, so it’s important to update, change or adapt it whenever necessary. Your safety is our number one priority here at the Hotline, so we believe that no matter what you have to do to stay safe, it’s worth doing. Every individual’s safety plan will look different depending on their relationship. You know your relationship and your partner best, so we trust that you are the expert in your life. The sexual abuse safety tips in this post are meant to be general, so please only use them if you feel safe doing so.

Physical Safety

If your partner becomes physically violent if you say no to a sexual activity, sometimes ‘giving in’ may be the best way to protect yourself. If you decide to do that, know that giving in doesn’t mean giving up, and it doesn’t mean you consented to anything that’s happening. There’s nothing you could ever do that could make your partner’s behavior your fault or your responsibility. If you are making choices in order to protect your immediate safety, that is not consent – that is survival. Again, consent cannot happen when someone feels unsafe saying no.

Remind yourself that abuse is a choice; we are each only in control of our own words and actions, and everyone deserves a partner who treats them with respect at all times.

We have heard from our callers and chatters that they can sometimes strategize to avoid sexual activity for their safety. Some examples we’ve heard include:

If you do not live with your abusive partner you could:

  • make a point to spend time with your partner in public
  • avoid going to wherever sexual activity usually occurs
  • take a friend with you when visiting your partner
  • avoid seeing your partner at the times of day when sexual abuse generally occurs

If you live together you could:

  • sleep in another room
  • stay over at a friend or family member’s house
  • tell your partner you need to go out of town for business
  • house-sit for people regularly
  • ask friends or family to call you just after bedtime with minor emergencies
  • talk to your doctor and see if they can give your partner a medical excuse to avoid intercourse
  • say that you’re unable to get aroused or fake ailments like nausea, menstrual cramps, headache/migraine, fever or sore throat, leg cramp, urinary tract infection, yeast infection, hemorrhoids, etc.
  • As a last resort some callers and chatters have made themselves sick, for example by using laxatives or taking something that can make them vomit. Definitely consider your own physical health (and any personal history of disordered eating) before trying this, and we strongly recommend you consult with your physician.

In the end, whether you use strategies to avoid sexual activity or not, the person being abusive is the only one who can end the abuse. No one else can prevent someone from being abusive if that’s how they choose to behave.

Emotional Safety

If your partner is gaslighting you and becoming emotionally abusive when you try to assert your boundaries, it might be helpful for you to make an emotional safety plan to go along with your physical safety plan. For survivors of all genders, ages, races, sexual orientations, abilities, religions, immigration statuses and locations, talking to a counselor can be a great way to start to heal from any kind of abuse. Support groups can also be an important tool because they can let you see how others have coped with their own situations, and often let you interact with people at various stages of the healing process. Finding the right counselor or support group can be difficult sometimes, but our advocates are here to support you and put you in touch with the local resources in your community that are on the ground to help. If you want to find someone in your community to talk to about your relationship call or chat with us now.

Pregnancy and STIs

Sex can have big consequences, such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy, and you have a right to protect yourself. We know that pregnancy is one of the most dangerous times in an abusive relationship, so if you are pregnant be sure to put your safety first. Male and female condoms can help protect against both STIs and pregnancy, and dental dams can be used for safe oral sex on women and safe oral-anal sex on anyone. PrEP is a daily prescription pill that can help protect people from contracting HIV and the HPV Vaccine can help protect people from common strains of Human Papillomavirus. There are a number of forms of birth control available today, and Planned Parenthood can help you decide what kind is right for you, even if your partner can’t know you’re using it. If your partner refuses to use or let you use birth control, tries to get pregnant or get you pregnant without your consent or tries to force you to have or not have an abortion, those are all forms of reproductive coercion. If you’re concerned about pregnancy, STIs or HIV/AIDS talk to your doctor, and do whatever makes you feel safest.

Digital Safety

Pictures and video are immortal, so if your partner is digitally abusing you by forcing you to pose for or send them explicit photos or video, keeping yourself safe can be a challenge. Note that in every state it is illegal for anyone to have or share sexual photos or videos of people under age 18. If you do pose for or take photos or videos, try to keep your face and any other identifying information like birthmarks, scars or tattoos out of them. Even the background of a picture can be identifying, so be aware of your surroundings when possible.

Understand the Laws

Know that you have the right to say “slow down,” “no” or “stop” at any time, and even if you got sexual pleasure from an activity, that doesn’t mean you gave consent. If your partner is forcing you to have sex with other people, be aware that it’s possible they are making money from it which is illegal in most places. You have the right to defend yourself and fight back if anyone is trying to coerce, pressure, guilt or force you into any kind of sexual activity. If you are in school, Title IX, a federal mandate in the Education Amendments of 1972, prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs anywhere in the country. Under Title IX, people who attend school and have experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape have the right to support services through their high school, college or university.

There are also state laws regarding sexual assault. The laws in every state are different, so if you want to know how your state handles cases of sexual assault, sexual abuse and rape chat with one of our advocates, who can find contact information for a legal advocate in your area. Here are some helpful tips on how to document the abuse if you choose to pursue legal help, which could include a protective order. If you feel that the abusive person would reduce the level and frequency of threats if the law becomes involved, this may be an effective tool to increase your safety. A protective order does not replace a safety plan, but a legal advocate may be able to help you explore whether getting a protective order could keep your partner from being able to legally contact you.

Advocates at The Hotline are available to chat from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. CT, or you can call us 24/7 to talk about what’s going on. Below are some additional resources that might be helpful to you as well.

Additional Resources:

  • If you’ve been sexually assaulted or raped in the past 72 hours, medical care and a SANE exam can be good options
  • The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) has a 24/7 hotline 1.800.656.HOPE(4673) and chat service
  • After Silence and Pandora’s Project are good places to seek support online
  • Male Survivor is a great resource for male survivors of sexual abuse and assault
  • Not Alone, Know Your IX and Clery Center are great resources for information on Title IX and your rights as a student
  • Safe Helpline provides 24/7 chat and phone support 877-995-5247 for survivors of sexual abuse and assault in the US Military anywhere in the world
  • The Northwest Network and The Network/La Red provide support services to LGBTQIA+ survivors of sexual abuse and assault
  • FORGE offers anti-violence support for members of the trans community and can supply referrals to local providers at 414-559-2123
  • The National Human Trafficking Resource Center operates a 24/7 hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or by texting HELP to 233733 (BeFree)
  • The HIPS Hotline helps those impacted by sexual exchange and/or drug use due to choice, coercion, or circumstance 24/7 at 1-800-676-HIPS

Source: thehotline.org/feed

Hotline Statement Regarding Dismissal of Charges Against Ray Rice

In light of today’s news that a judge dismissed domestic violence charges against former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, The Hotline is releasing the following statement:

It is not uncommon for first-time offenders, like Ray Rice, to have charges dropped after completing batterers intervention programs. For the past year, this case has brought the dynamics of domestic violence to the forefront of national conversation. It is our hope that these important conversations about the complexity of domestic violence do not end with this decision and victims of domestic violence reach out for help by contacting The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or www.thehotline.org.  It is important that people living in violent situations do not view this decision as evidence that the abusive partner prevails or goes unpunished.

Source: thehotline.org/feed

Recognizing Domestic Violence in the LGBTQ Community

Last month, W.N.B.A. stars Brittney Griner and her fiancée, Glory Johnson, were arrested for a domestic dispute that included allegations of assault. Just last week, the W.N.B.A. suspended each player for seven games, the longest in league history, and both women will be required to attend counseling sessions. This response demonstrates that athletic organizations are beginning to take domestic violence among players more seriously. We hope that more and more organizations across the country no longer ignore the issue, but instead take steps to respond appropriately when domestic violence occurs among employees.

The incident between Griner and Johnson also brought to light a lot of misconceptions about domestic violence, namely that it can’t or doesn’t happen in LGBTQ relationships. This could not be further from the truth.

At The Hotline, we know that domestic violence doesn’t discriminate; it can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. People in same-sex relationships are no less susceptible to domestic violence; however, due to societal stigmas around LGBTQ relationships, this abuse is often rendered invisible and victims may feel they have nowhere to turn.

Samantha Master at TheRoot.com discusses these issues in her article, “Brittney Griner, Glory Johnson and How We Ignore Domestic Violence in the LGBTQ Community.” In this piece, Ms. Master states: “If abuse, at its core, is about power and control, then same-gender relationships, relationships between trans women and cis men, trans men and cis women, or two trans people are not exempt from this reality.” She goes on to say that, “[t]his…means that LGBTQ people must be visible in anti-IPV campaigns and organizations that provide support for survivors of intimate partner violence. These groups must also be culturally competent, affirming and well-versed in serving LGBTQ people.”

We agree that domestic violence services and programs should be available to ALL victims and survivors who seek support and resources. While Hotline advocates are trained to assist anyone who contacts us regarding intimate partner violence (IPV), including people who identify as LGBTQ, we recognize that there are often gaps in availability for local services to support them. We hope that as more awareness is drawn to this issue, more programs will be able to expand to serve LGBTQ victims and survivors so that all can receive the support they deserve.

Source: thehotline.org/feed

Delegations from US and China Share Best Practices for Domestic Violence Services

With special contribution from Lynn Rosenthal, vice president of strategic partnerships, and Norma Amezcua, director of quality assurance at the National Domestic Violence Hotline

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is currently participating in a project between the US and China to share information about best practices for the intervention and prevention of domestic violence.  This project grew out of the US-China People to People Exchange held last year in Beijing.  During that event, the two countries agreed to collaborate to provide training for hotline workers and advocates working to address domestic violence in China.

Last month, a delegation that included representatives from The Hotline, governmental officials from the US Department of Health and Human Services, the State Department, and the White House traveled to China to meet and exchange information with local service providers and organizations. The key partner working on behalf of women in China is the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF), an organization that works to improve the status of women in China.

The ACWF infrastructure provides an opportunity for anti-violence work at the local, provincial and national level.  Services vary around the country, with several provinces developing model efforts that bring together law enforcement, women’s outreach and the courts. The ACWF estimates that nearly 1 in 4 women in China have experienced domestic violence, a very similar rate to the US. However, other estimates of domestic violence in China are even higher than the official data.

During the visit, the Chinese and US delegations discussed intervention and prevention, and agreed that changing social norms is the key to stopping domestic violence. ACWF is working to change the perception that domestic violence is a private family matter, which has also been a persistent belief in the US, especially prior to VAWA. All attendees agreed to continue discussing effective methods to change social norms and to consider ways to evaluate these efforts.

The US delegation also conducted two training sessions, one in Wuxi City (in the southern part of the country) and one in Beijing. Participants included students, law enforcement officials, ACWF officials and outreach workers, social workers, lawyers and psychologists. In both the training sessions and in meetings with ACWF officials, the US delegation learned about best practices and the legal response to domestic violence in China.

Domestic violence is a global issue, and no country is immune. We are grateful for this opportunity to learn and exchange ideas with our counterparts in China. A delegation from ACWF will visit the US later this year, and we look forward to continuing conversations about best practices, policies and solutions for ending domestic violence around the world.

Attendees at the training session in Wuxi City

Attendees at the training session in Wuxi City

Source: thehotline.org/feed

Capps Reintroduces Bill to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence and Stalking

As we approach Mother’s Day, Rep. Lois Capps (CA-24) announced this week that she has reintroduced legislation to strengthen protections for women everywhere who are victims of domestic violence and stalking by closing loopholes that allow their abusers and stalkers access to guns.

Currently, more than three times as many women are murdered with guns used by their intimate partners than are murdered by strangers using a gun, knife, or any other weapon. Furthermore, dating partners were responsible for 35 percent of intimate partner homicides committed between 1976 and 2005, and the share of intimate partner homicides committed annually by current dating partners has been on the rise.

The Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act (H.R. 2216) would address these disturbing figures by closing several loopholes that currently exist in federal protections against gun violence for those who are victims of domestic violence or stalking. “We applaud the reintroduction of the Protecting Domestic Violence and Staking Victims Act,” said Ron LeGrand Vice President of Public Policy for the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “While federal law prohibits some perpetrators from keeping their firearms, dangerous loopholes remain for dating partners, stalkers, and abusers served with emergency temporary protective orders. Representative Capps’s bill closes these dangerous loopholes and will save countless lives when it is enacted.”

“In 2014, The Hotline conducted a survey where nearly 16 percent of the participants said their partners had access to guns, and a startling 67 percent said they believed their partner was capable of killing them,” said Katie Ray-Jones, chief executive officer of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “For those individuals, it is critical that we continue to work together to strengthen the law to protect survivors from firearm violence at the point when they first seek help.”

The bill has 18 original co-sponsors in Congress. It is supported by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Center for Victims of Crime, Futures Without Violence, National [email protected] Network and Casa de Esperanza.

Source: thehotline.org/feed

Abuse and Mental Illness: Is There a Connection?

Mental-IllnessThis post was written by Alexander, one of our digital services advocates

A common assumption we hear at The Hotline is that abuse is caused by a partner’s mental health condition, for example: bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), narcissistic personality, borderline personality or antisocial personality. While these are serious mental health conditions, they do not cause abuse. Nothing in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM 5) states that a mental illness solely causes a partner to be abusive in a relationship; however, there are a select few diagnoses that can increase the risk of abusive patterns to show up in a relationship and in other areas of life. Mental illness tends to impact all areas of a person’s life, such as work, interactions with friends, family engagement and personal relationships. In contrast, abuse primarily impacts personal relationships and typically not the other areas of life. Abusive behavior in an intimate partner relationship and mental illness are two separate entities.

Since abusive behaviors happen primarily in one’s intimate partner relationship, it’s common that an abusive partner will not show their negative or harmful behaviors with friends, coworkers or family members. An abusive partner tends to put on what can be considered a “fake mask” for the rest of the world to see. When it’s just the victim and the abusive partner together, that mask comes off and the victim sees a different side that others aren’t allowed to see. The impact of being the only person to see this behavior is often isolating for the victim, as they may think (or the abusive person may even say) that no one else will believe them, since no one else has witnessed the abusive behaviors. This also makes it easier for the abusive person to make their partner feel responsible for their abusive behavior, which reinforces the isolation.

Lundy Bancroft, author of Why Does He Do That? (2002), clarifies that an abusive partner’s “value system is unhealthy, not their psychology” (p. 38). Yes, it can appear like an abusive partner has a mental illness when they get upset and use physical or verbal abuse. If the abuse were caused by a mental illness, the partner would also yell at and/or hit their family members, friends and coworkers when upset. With domestic abuse, however, the abuser usually yells at and/or hits only their partner.

Abuse and mental illness can coincide. There are cases of individuals who have mental illness and are also abusive to their partners. There are also many individuals who have a mental illness and are healthy and supportive partners. If your partner does have a mental illness and is abusive towards you, it’s important to keep in mind that the mental illness and abusive behaviors need to be addressed separately by the abusive partner. It is the abusive partner’s responsibility to seek out support and create their own plan for managing their mental illness and be accountable for their abusive behavior. If your partner is not owning up to their actions, is not admitting to how much they’re hurting you, and is not seeking out professional help then that’s a sign that your partner isn’t willing to change. If that’s the case, then the abuse in the relationship tends to continue and escalate over time.

The following questions may help clarify whether what your partner is doing is abuse or abuse with mental illness:

  • Does my partner yell or scream at others (friends, coworkers, family members) outside of our relationship?
  • Does my partner make others check in to see where they’re at and who they’re with?
  • Does my partner hit others outside of our relationship?
  • Does my partner minimize or verbally tear down others?
  • Does my partner pressure others to do things that they aren’t okay with?
  • Does my partner make threats to others when they say something my partner doesn’t agree with?

If you answered no to most of the questions, then most likely your partner is abusive without mental illness. If you answered yes to most of the questions, then it’s possible your partner is abusive and also may be experiencing some form of mental health issue or illness. Lundy Bancroft’s book, Should I Stay or Should I Go?, has a chapter on untangling a partner’s mental health issues from abusive behaviors. Additionally, connecting with a support network, including a domestic violence advocate or counselor who specializes in domestic violence may help support you in determining your options.

Even if your partner does have a mental illness, there is NEVER an excuse for abuse. Abuse is a choice someone makes in order to maintain power and control over a partner. If a partner is abusive towards you, regardless of whether they have a mental illness or not, they have no right to treat you in that manner. You always deserve to have a healthy, loving, supportive, trusting and safe relationship 100% of the time.

If you have any questions or concerns after reading this post, please feel free to reach out to one of our advocates by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) any time or chatting online from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. CT.

Source: thehotline.org/feed

The Hotline Joins Colleagues in Announcing New Victim Policy Priorities

In recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (April 19-25), more than 20 national victim and survivor organizations announced shared policy priorities for the next decade yesterday in Washington, DC.

The six policy priorities were identified late last fall at a convening of leaders in the crime victims and survivors advocacy field. The broad collection of national victim and survivor advocacy organizations that met to develop the priorities included advocates for homicide survivors; human trafficking victims; elder victims; victims of drunk driving; victims of domestic violence and sexual assault; victims of campus violence; victims of color; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender victims of violence; and many more.

The collaborating organizations committed to using their combined energies over the next decade to:

  • Ensure that amounts collected for the Crime Victims Fund are released for their intended purpose, at levels necessary to meet the needs of crime victims and reduce the impact of victimization on individuals and society.
  • Reform crime victim compensation to increase benefits, improve access, reduce barriers, and promote standardization across jurisdictions.
  • Incorporate racial justice concerns in victim and survivor advocacy efforts.
  • Protect the physical safety, emotional well-being, and financial security of all crime victims and witnesses.
  • Pursue justice for all crime victims by continuing to reform our justice systems to increase transparency, ensure that victims’ voices are heard, and provide meaningful accountability.
  • Promote fair and thoughtful roles for institutions in preventing and responding to victimization.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline and our partners invite others at the national, state, tribal and local levels to read the report and sign on at www.victimsofcrime.org.

Source: thehotline.org/feed

NFL Suspends Greg Hardy

According to NFL.com, Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy has been suspended without pay for the first 10 games of the 2015 season. The decision came after the league’s two-month investigation into a domestic violence incident last year involving Hardy and his ex-girlfriend, Nicole Holder. The league concluded that there was sufficient credible evidence that Hardy had violated the league’s Personal Conduct Policy.

This is a positive step forward for the NFL as the league continues to evaluate and implement more stringent policies around domestic violence. Our hope is that the NFL’s commitment to addressing and preventing domestic violence will set an example for other organizations across the country. More effective workplace policies can go a long way toward creating support systems and providing protection for employees who are affected by domestic violence, as well as sending a message that abuse will not be tolerated.

Learn more about the laws in your state that protect your employment and housing rights. If you are experiencing domestic violence, The Hotline is here to help. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) any time or chat online via our website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. CT.

Source: thehotline.org/feed

The Big Payback

BigPayback2015Participant-FacebookNews

All donations made to SAVE through TheBigPayback.org on May 5 will be added to through matching grants and prize packages that The Community Foundation is offering.  All donations are tax deductible  and tax receipts will be provided upon request.  Please support our shelter and encourage (even challenge) your friends to join you too!