National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

RHOBH Recap: Taylor’s Therapy & Why We Don’t Recommend It

Did you catch Monday’s episode of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills? Quick recap for those who missed it, we watched the Housewives going along with their lives — Lisa planning her daughter’s wedding, Adrienne fussing over her shoe line debut, and Kyle and Brandi going for manicures. The scene we found ourselves drawn to most, however, was Taylor and Russell’s very real therapy session.

It was hard to watch.

The therapist brought up the topics of Russell’s anger, his aggression and his desire to hurt Taylor when they’re arguing. The therapist didn’t specify in which way Russell hurts his wife, so we are not clear if the therapist is referring to physical, verbal/emotional abuse or other. Russell contributed that it wasn’t pretty when he was angry, a comment that seemed too casual for the topic at hand. Russell left the session early to attend a business meeting.

We bring up this scene to discuss what may surprise some of our readers.

We at the hotline do not encourage anyone in an abusive relationship to seek counseling with their partner. Abuse is not a relationship problem. While there can be benefits for couples who undergo couple’s therapy, there’s a great risk for any person who is being abused to attend therapy with their abusive partner.

Relationship counseling can help partners understand each other, resolve difficult problems, and even help the couple gain a different perspective on their situation. It cannot, however, fix the unequal power structure that is characteristic of an abusive relationship.

An abuser may use what is said in therapy later against their partner. Therapy can make a person feel vulnerable. If the abuser is embarrassed or angered by something said in therapy, he or she may make their partner suffer to gain back the sense of control. Therapy is often considered a “safe space” for people to talk. For an abused partner, that safety doesn’t necessarily extend to their home.

Couples often enter couple’s therapy to fix their relationship. Deciding whether or not the relationship is better is extremely hard for a couple if one is being abused. The abuser has all of the power and can no longer gauge if a relationship is getting better because he/she does not see what their partner sees. The abused partner often cannot even rate how bad or good the relationship is because the abuse has affected him/her. We saw this happen in the episode. Russell even tried to control the evaluation of therapy, declaring that he thought they were progressing. Taylor responded saying that while they were working on it, they weren’t quite to a good place just yet.

Another reason that couple’s therapy or counseling is not recommended is that the facilitator may not know about the abuse, which would make the entire process ineffective. The abuser may make their partner seem responsible for the problems, and if the therapist does not realize that abuse is present, her or she may believe the abuser.

If you or someone you know is considering entering therapy with an abusive partner, please have them call us at the hotline. We can talk to them, and give them a judgment-free sounding board for their hopes and concerns about the process.

Here’s an interview Taylor did on KTLA in which she says that the reality show may have even saved her life.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Awareness

The Hotline Gives Thanks

This has been a big year for The Hotline. We want to thank every caller who reached out and every friend or stranger who helped them overcome domestic violence, one step at a time.

Our callers
We are so thankful that you found the courage to pick up your phone and ask for help. The Hotline received a record number of calls this year, which means that a record number of people sought help from domestic violence; a step towards safety and happiness. Your stories have moved us and have further empowered us to continue the work we do.

Brave bystanders
By choosing to act, you stood up against domestic violence and may have even saved a life. As a stranger, speaking up may have felt uncomfortable, but your courage helped create change and showed someone that they are not alone.

Supportive family and friends
Thank you for your loyalty to someone who may have felt lost or alone during their difficult situation. We want to recognize your dedication to ending domestic violence and your patience along the way. Having a strong support system is one of the most important parts of overcoming relationship violence—thanks for being a pillar of strength for your loved one.

Vice President Biden’s 1 is 2 Many Campaign
We’d like to extend a thanks to Vice President Biden for his continued efforts to raise awareness of the issue. His 1 is 2 Many campaign has brought much-needed attention to dating abuse on college campuses. We would also like to thank him for his support of the National Dating Abuse Helpline, especially in his promotion of their new texting service.

Media outlets that shared real stories of domestic violence
We are so excited to have been included in the conversations around domestic violence as depicted on television this year. Networks like Bravo showed the affects of domestic violence on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Entertainment Tonight even aired an exposé about domestic violence, where viewers heard from survivors directly. These television specials helped women watching recognize unhealthy behaviors and helped start a dialogue about how to end domestic violence.

Lastly, we want to thank all of you who are reading this. By visiting our site, you are educating yourself about domestic violence and can spread the message to others. Thank you for taking an interest in our services and the domestic violence movement. We hope you will have a safe and healthy holiday spent with loved ones.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

RHOBH: “But Now We’ve Said It”

On tonight’s episode “Tempest in a Tea Party,” a heated discussion amongst the wives about loyalty and friendship turned into an unexpected intervention for Taylor Armstrong about her marriage. The housewives agree that they all want to protect Taylor, but they also admit to feelings of confusion about how to handle the situation as friends of both Taylor and Russell.

Taylor was visibly anxious during the initial conversation with Lisa and when the subject of her marriage arose, Taylor becomes uncomfortable and even asks “Why are we talking about this?” Though Taylor is unsure of who her real friends are, the housewives repeatedly confess feeling scared for her.

We know there is no handbook for helping a friend or family member who is experiencing abuse. The housewives may not have supported Taylor the way we would have, but they did show concern for her safety and happiness, which is important. There were a few moments during the intervention that we wanted to pull out and talk about how they could have gone differently.

“You say that he’s leaving you, but then you’re getting on a plane with him.”
Camille tells the girls about Taylor coming over and talking for three hours about her struggle with her marriage and then is surprised when Taylor announces at the end of their conversation that she is going on a trip with her husband.  Camille is obviously worried about Taylor’s safety, but seems to blame her for putting herself in an unsafe situation. Many believe that abusive relationships are easy to leave and that the abuse ends as soon as the victim has left. Unfortunately, the reality is that, on average, a victim takes multiple tries to leave an abusive relationship. We appreciate Camille’s concern for Taylor, but we wish she had been more understanding of Taylor’s difficult position.

“Russell’s always been lovely to me.”
All of the housewives seem to have a good relationship with Taylor’s husband. Abusive partners can be charming and friendly in person, so this isn’t surprising. However, Taylor has shared several instances of abusive behavior with her fellow housewives. Seeing through an abuser’s façade requires a critical eye. We understand that the women have never seen Russell as unkind but we wish they took Taylor’s confessions to heart.

“Unless I’ve seen it with my own eyes, I can’t say.”
Kyle does not feel comfortable taking a side between two of her close friends when she has not witnessed the alleged abuser as a threat. She is also suspicious that Taylor may be exaggerating her stories about her marriage. Victims of abuse frequently do not come forward about their experiences because they fear they won’t be believed. Taylor was courageous for sharing her situation with her friends; however, her fears were realized in this episode when her struggle was not taken seriously. This can be especially dangerous if the abuse continues or worsens because Taylor will not trust anyone to support her. We recognize that Kyle was trying to be diplomatic by not believing what she had not physically seen, but we wish that she would have believed her friend and validated her feelings.

We would like to thank Bravo for airing this footage and we hope that viewers will feel more comfortable talking about domestic violence in their own lives.

Are you in a position where you need to support someone in an abusive relationship? Find more information about helping a friend or family member who is experiencing abuse or contact The Hotline and an advocate can help you figure out your next step.

 

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Francesca’s Story

* Note from The Hotline: Special thanks to Francesca for bravely sharing her story with us.*

Living with a man like my ex-husband is like having a gun pointed at your head every single day, and you just don’t know when the gun is going to go off.

I am writing to tell my story – of how I have been a victim and survivor of repeated, relentless domestic violence – and to bring the weaknesses in the justice system and the general lack of knowledge in the community about domestic violence to your attention.

I married my ex-husband in October of 2005 thinking that he was a kind, gentle, compassionate, and caring man. Not until I was pregnant with our child did I see his true character. When I was about six months pregnant, he slapped me across my face, leaving me with a black eye and knocking me to the ground. Luckily nothing happened to my baby, but the abuse did not end there. At the time, I was living in Ecuador. I was trapped and scared.

My daughter was born in June of 2007, and we traveled to the U.S. permanently in August of 2007. Once there he did not hold back. Just three weeks after arriving in the U.S., there had already been three calls made to the police on domestic disputes, and he was arrested after battering me while I had our infant daughter in my arms. As I tried to call 9-1-1, he ripped the phone cord out of the wall. He threatened me that if I testified against him that he would kill me, and I believed him.

Rape was a regular occurrence in our home, and I cannot count the number of times I laid in bed crying as he raped me. He also strangled me on a regular basis, slammed my head into the walls of our home, leaving large holes, tortured me sexually, mentally, psychologically, and ruined me financially.

He hit our three your old daughter in the face, leaving a large bruise, then kept her home from day care for several days until the bruise was no longer visible. He put her head through our bathroom wall, which was reported to the Illinois DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services). DCFS decided that he did, in fact, abuse our daughter, but they did not pursue the case any further.

I tried so hard to protect her from him, but every time he would hit her, I would step in, and receive my own beating on her behalf. I did not report it since I was sure he would kill me or kidnap my daughter if I did.

Perhaps one of the worst parts of this whole story is that he almost killed me. Actually, he did kill me, but thankfully doctors were able to revive me. In this particular incident we were involved in a heated discussion because I had to leave Ecuador to return to the U.S. for medical school and my graduate work in biochemistry. He had not obtained a visa to come to the U.S. at that point, and threatened to divorce me if I did not stay with him in Ecuador. He grabbed my wrists, screamed at me, and then threatened me with a screwdriver. I walked home knowing that I would divorce him, and knowing that I had a flight back to the U.S. in about three days. I laid down to take a nap, and did not wake up until four days later.

I was on a ventilator in the hospital, and they informed me that I had undergone cardiac arrest on several occasions. The coma was so profound that I received the lowest rating on the Glasgow coma scale. It is truly a miracle that I survived.

It is my firm belief that my ex-husband poisoned me with scopolamine, a common date rape drug in parts of Latin America. He called my medical school and told them I had tried to kill myself, instead of giving them the true story, which then led to me being expelled from school. He has sabotaged my career, my jobs, did not allow me to have any friends or family in my life, destroyed my home and beat my pets

When I have told my story to friends and family, a few people’s reaction is to ask why I didn’t leave sooner, or they simply don’t believe me at all. It is a shock to me how undereducated the public is on domestic violence.

People do not understand how difficult it is to escape. It is almost impossible to gather evidence, because the abuser will find a way to destroy it. No one on the outside knows what is happening because the abuser has the victim trapped and alone. He cuts her off from all outside interaction, and attempts to control her mind, and in many cases, he is successful.

If a woman does manage to escape, the justice system does little to help or protect her. I have had a domestic violence advocate tell me that there is only a 50/50 chance that someone will get convicted of domestic battery in my county, even in cases where there are bloody pictures, good witnesses, hospital reports, and other evidence. This is why women cannot simply just walk out the door. It is a real life or death risk to leave a man that believes he owns you. You could, and many have, die in the process. 4 out of 5 deaths due to domestic battery occur when a woman tries to leave.

I am asking for your help to educate the public on these issues. Women are beaten every day by their husbands, and it is a misdemeanor. You can get a felony charge for getting in a bar fight, but if you beat your wife, the justice system is sending a message that you will only get a slap on the wrist, if even that.

One of the most difficult problems I think battered women and children face is that the abuser isolates the victim to the point where most of the time there are no eyewitnesses. Because of this, it makes these cases very difficult to prosecute, but even worse, it makes the state’s attorney’s office reluctant to even pursue it because they see it as a waste of money and resources.

Domestic violence is NOT a family matter. It is everyone’s business. It affects us all even if we are not directly abused. Women should be able to speak out against their abusers. They should be able to bring their abusers to justice. The public should be educated about what it means to be battered, and why it is so difficult to escape. With stiffer punishments, and better prevention, many women would be able to leave sooner. PLEASE help me and all women fight for what is fundamentally right.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Awareness

Regional Town Hall on Engaging Men and Stopping Violence Against Women

Townhall The Hotline President Katie Ray-Jones and loveisrespect.org Youth Advisory Board Member Angela Garcia-Ditta from Austin participated in a town hall meeting convened by Vice President Joe Biden in Dallas on October 25, 2011. The two served on the panel, fielding questions from audience members around the issue of domestic violence, especially as it’s seen on college campuses. Students from several local Texas universities were in attendance.

Vice President Biden convened town hall meetings in 10 states across the country to focus on domestic violence during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. The goal was to get more men involved in speaking out against dating abuse and domestic violence.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

RHOBH: What Kyle Sees Isn’t What Taylor Gets

Last week’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills episode “Otherwise Engaged” showed a particular moment that we’d like to discuss.

Kyle and her husband Mauricio attended a dinner thrown by Taylor and Russell. While a dinner between friends is common enough, there appeared to be a discomfort between the two couples. One of the reasons for this was shared by Kyle’s voice-over as she walked into the Armstrong’s home.

“Taylor will tell us things that make us not like Russell. That’s very difficult because then when we see him, he’s very polite and seems to be a nice person. It’s very confusing for everyone.”

As the viewer watching this, we know that Taylor will later come forward about Russell abusing her.

This situation between Kyle and Russell is very typical.

Often, abusive partners can be well liked by family members and friends of the victim. This is because friends and family might not see the abuse happen, and they may only ever see the kind side of the abuser.

If you find yourself in a situation like Kyle’s, know that it’s ok to be conflicted. You may like the person and not like their behaviors. It’s ok to question your feelings towards them.

We do want to point out that if you are rude or hostile towards the abusive partner, this can be used against your friend (the victim). The abusive partner can say things like, “What did you tell your friends?” or “Have you been talking about me behind my back?” and then use this situation against the person they are abusing.

Be mindful of how your actions or statements can be used to fuel the abuse.

This moment on RHOBH was significant for us because it seemed to be a red-flag moment for Kyle. She recognized that things weren’t adding up. We encourage you to call The Hotline if you need help reaching a friend experiencing abuse.

Did you see this episode? Did this moment catch your eye? Will you be tuning in tonight?

National Domestic Violence Hotline Awareness

Shop Til It Stops

This October, you can help end domestic violence by simply purchasing a pair of shoes at any Marshalls store nationwide between October 8-22, 2011.

For each pair of shoes sold during this period, $1 (up to $150,000) will be donated to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.  For the past 20 years, Marshalls has worked to put an end to domestic violence through their Shop Til It Stops program. Visit www.marshallsonline.com to find a store near you and join Marshalls in support of The Hotline’s efforts to end domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

President Obama Issues Domestic Violence Awareness Month Proclamation

Today, President Obama issued a presidential proclamation declaring October 2011 as Domestic Violence Awareness Month and urging Americans to speak out against domestic violence. President Obama specifically mentioned The Hotline as a resource to help victims and survivors. Please read the excerpt below, and find the entire proclamation on whitehouse.gov:

During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we recognize the significant achievements we have made in reducing domestic violence in America, and we recommit ourselves to the important work still before us.  Despite tremendous progress, an average of three women in America die as a result of domestic violence each day.  One in four women and one in thirteen men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.  These statistics are even more sobering when we consider that domestic violence often goes unreported.

The ramifications of domestic violence are staggering.  Young women are among the most vulnerable, suffering the highest rates of intimate partner violence.  Exposure to domestic violence puts our young men and women in danger of long-term physical, psychological, and emotional harm.  Children who experience domestic violence are at a higher risk for failure in school, emotional disorders, and substance abuse, and are more likely to perpetuate the cycle of violence themselves later in life.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Awareness

Hotline Constituent Advisory Council

The Hotline Constituent Advisory Council (CAC), which consists of a diverse array of nationwide stakeholders representing many domestic violence and sexual assault services and programs, held a mini-orientation in August for new members of the Constituent Advisory Council who were unable to attend the February meeting.  The half-day meeting provided an opportunity for them to listen to calls and learn about Hotline operations.  The purpose of the meeting was to provide a foundation for new members to be able to participate fully in the Constituent Advisory Council and be informed to provide feedback on strategies to enhance The Hotline services.

We are excited to work with this remarkable group of people, all of whom are dynamic and nationally recognized leaders and The Hotline looks forward to identifying ways we can enhance The Hotline services to callers and other stakeholders.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Awareness

First Dating Abuse Texting Service Launches

On September 27, loveisrespect.org, a partnership between the National Dating Abuse Helpline and Break the Cycle, announced the nation’s first dating abuse texting service. Teens and 20-somethings can now ask questions about healthy relationships simply by texting “loveis” to 77054 to directly connect to a peer advocate.

Vice President Joe Biden premiered the service on September 26, sending the first text to peer advocate Whitney Laas, thanking loveisrespect.org advocates for their work to end dating abuse.

An additional feature of the brand’s re-launch is the updated website. The new site contains interactive quizzes as well as expanded information about LGBTQ dating, legal support and digital abuse. As always, the innovative online chat is still accessible through the website. Also as an added feature, young adults will now be able to receive services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The re-launch of loveisrespect.org was made possible by the Office on Violence Against Women, Liz Claiborne Inc., Healthy Kids Healthy Families and the Verizon Foundation. To learn more, please visit loveisrespect.org.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Awareness

The Hotline Welcomes New Operations Director, Norma Mazzei

Norma Vicenta Mazzei has joined The Hotline team as Operations Director. Ms. Mazzei has worked in the field of domestic violence andsocial services for more than 16 years. Mazzei has been part of several exciting and dynamic organizations that have focused on bettering communities during this time. Mazzei is a passionate and active advocate for families affected by abuse and families that are at-risk and embraces this role with deep commitment.

During her tenure in these organizations, she has had the opportunity to be the director of several dynamic domestic violence programs and appreciates the responsibility of leading programs as well as the staff.

Her expertise includes management of several successful domestic violence shelters, transitional housing programs, domestic violence hotlines and counseling programs and working with domestic violence in the military. She also has extensive experience in contract monitoring, compliance, development of policies and procedures, oversight and management of databases, as well as program research and evaluation.

Mazzei was also the first program director for the highly successful Domestic Violence Response Team that began in 1997 in Chula Vista, California, which currently responds to over 1400 calls a year.  She also has extensive experience working with at-risk youth in homeless shelters and groups homes as well as providing case management to youth and families. Mazzei is bilingual and bi-cultural in English and Spanish and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of California, San Diego.

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On the Lines- loveisrespect, September 2010

My caller was 15 years old, in her first dating relationship. A friend of hers had sent her a link in a Facebook message: “Does Your Relationship Need a Make-Over?” She had taken the quiz, and the results were a little disturbing for her.

She told me that her boyfriend was pretty cool in front of other people, but he got jealous easily. He got angry and called her names when she talked to other guys at social events. He went through her phone to see who she had called and texted. He threatened to dump her if she hung out with her guy friends, but he would throw or punch things if she mentioned breaking up with him.

“My friend is protective and hates the way my boyfriend treats me, but I never thought much of it until I saw it in black and white on the quiz. I just thought this was how dating was supposed to be.”

I told my caller that she didn’t have to put up with controlling behavior in order to be in a relationship; she deserves to be treated with respect.  We talked about the dynamics of a healthy relationship and some of the red flags in her relationship.

“Thanks,” the caller said at the end of the call. “I’m glad my friend sent me that quiz, but I’m really glad that I called. It’s good to know that I have options.”